For those who have somehow missed it and think the BeltLine is still just remnants of abandoned railroad tracks covered in overgrown grass, it’s time to hit some trails and see the progress that the ambitious project has been making around the city.
And it’s an important time to get up to speed on one of the most imaginative and transformative projects our city has seen. On July 31, Atlanta citizens will vote to approve (or not) a one-cent-per-dollar sales tax to allocate $7 billion over 10 years toward road improvements and new transit options. This would include $600 million for transit projects along the BeltLine.
More than just an effort to build a 22-mile loop of parks, trails and transit, the Atlanta BeltLine is ultimately about connecting neighborhoods, creating community and fostering a more walkable, livable city. Generations to come will benefit from its efforts to create a renewed urban culture – but there’s also plenty for us to take advantage of now.
Here are a few highlights and what you can already explore:
• The project will include a 22 mile loop around the city of pedestrian-friendly rail transit; 33 miles of multi-use trails; and 1,300 acres of parks.
• There are already 11 miles of walking and biking trails accessible, including the West End Trail and the Northside Trail.
• The multi-use Eastside Trail – connecting Piedmont Park and Inman Park – is having a “sneak peak” on July 28 with a more official dedication in a few months when the landscaping is completed.
• There are already four new parks and they’ve acquired 500 acres of land for future parks. The 17-acre Historic Fourth Ward Park includes the city’s first public skatepark.
• Urban development, like Ponce City Market, will complement and connect with the BeltLine. The soon-to-be refurbished Atlanta landmark is converting its old rail line bridge for pedestrians to be able to walk right into the retail area of the building.
• Trees Atlanta is planting 200 trees along the West End Trail that may become the world’s longest linear arboretum.
• Off Marietta Boulevard, a rock quarry will be transformed into 300 acres of green space called the Westside Reservoir Park (Piedmont Park is about 200 acres).
• Art on the Atlanta Beltline is an example of how this is about more than just trails and transit. The exhibition runs September to November and features the work of visual artists, performers, musicians and historic preservationists along the corridor.
“The vision of the project is one of literally transforming Atlanta into a more walkable community that brings people together in a public space,” said Ethan Davidson with the Atlanta BeltLine. “When people experience it, they are already blown away by how much closer neighborhoods are to each other than they thought. The connectivity, the improvement to the landscape and the change in perspective this brings, makes people feel a sense of pride in their hometown. People are discovering parts of the city they never knew existed – and all it requires is someone going out and taking a look at it.”