Atlanta urban hike along the BeltLine’s newly cleared northeast corridor!

Urban hike along the Atlanta BeltLine corridor on December 19, 2009

A view looking north towards City Hall East on our Atlanta BeltLine urban hike this past Saturday. Click to see more photos of the walk, including a panoramic view of downtown as seen from the North Avenue bridge by the Masquerade!

A few weeks ago, I posted a blog about the old Norfolk Southern railroad tracks coming up along the Atlanta BeltLine’s northeast corridor to make way for the new hiking path arriving in early 2010. We’ve done two major trash and underbrush clean-ups along this stretch (as well as in the West End), so I’m pretty familiar with isolated stretches, but this past Saturday morning I had the opportunity to walk a continuous three miles of the path from Piedmont Park to DeKalb Avenue with almost 30 other intrigued residents.

Eli Dickerson (of WonderRoot Urban Hiking) and Angel Poventud (BeltLine and Trees Atlanta volunteer extraordinaire) gathered our crew together behind Amsterdam Walk at the intersection of Monroe and Amsterdam in Morningside / Virginia Highland. Heading on the path up the hill behind the complex, we were greeted with a view of the Piedmont Park expansion, slated to be completed next year. We couldn’t hike north through the construction site to Ansley Park, but Angel gave us an overview and turned us around to head south.

The actual rails, dating back to the very early 1900’s, have been pulled up and set aside for future recycling, but the crossties are still in place for the most part. Everything is scheduled to be uprooted in the next several weeks and replaced with a mulch hiking trail in advance of the permanent concrete path to follow in the next few years. The walk itself transports you back in time, giving urban hikers a glimpse of Atlanta’s industrial past – the Terminus of old that was criss-crossed with tracks, railroad yards, industrial warehouses and factories.

For all those who complain about Atlanta traffic (and we all do), I highly suggest parking the car and taking a walk as the crow flies. It’s incredible how much ground you can cover on this flat railroad bed when you cut through neighborhoods, over and under major streets – a completely uninterrupted walk in the heart of Atlanta’s northeast quadrant. Not to mention the expasive, unique views of downtown and Midtown Atlanta – the old Sears building (now City Hall East) being one of the most notable. The path cuts directly beside the Historic Fourth Ward Park, a gem that is currently under construction from the Masquerade on North Avenue down to the skate park beneath Freedom Parkway. By next year, Historic Fourth Ward Park will sparkle with a new storm water retention pond (which will be as practical as it is aesthetically pleasing) along with almost eight miles of BeltLine trail open to the public.

This urban hike held another perk – the company. I had the pleasure of meeting (or getting to know better) a number of people – everyone with a varied background and different approach to their interest in the BeltLine.

  • Robby Astrove, Program Coordinator with Trees Atlanta, has been the #1 advocate of the BeltLine Arboretum and has been actively working with schools along the BeltLine to “better connect students to nature through service and explorations… collective outdoor learning, student leadership opportunities, and hands-on projects..”(more to come on that in a future post!).
  • Michael Bryan of Emory is studying the public health impact of the BeltLine and how having a network of trails can lower obesity and health issues due to increased walking and physical activity (side note: he would love to tackle green roofs and document the potential for them here in Atlanta – love it).
  • Craig Durkin of Concrete Jungle has been mapping residential fruit trees across metro Atlanta, harvesting the fruits and nuts when in season, and donating the fresh produce to the Atlanta Community Food Bank (more to come on this project, too! I’ve read about what they’ve done in Portland and look forward to following Craig’s expansions). Check out his blog here, www.Concrete!
  • Jack Walsh, in the small world that is Atlanta, is my neighbor and, as it turns out, is a producer and editor for Public Broadcasting Atlanta (we’ll see each other running in the morning and have crossed paths volunteering for the Atlanta Community Food Bank, but never talked about our day jobs). He was out on that cold morning to cover urban hiking and the hidden places that you can uncover. Look for the story to come out around April!
  • Eli Dickerson and I also had the chance to talk more. We met initially at the Trees Atlanta Fall Fest where we had information tables next to each other (his had composting worms) and I found out that he works for Fernbank Science Center, a place near and dear to my heart. Stay tuned for more from WonderRoot Urban Hiking and more!
  • And, of course, Angel – the fellow BeltLine volunteer who, in another small-world twist, is a CSX train conductor for the rail line that runs directly behind my house (home to the future Brain Train? we’ll see).

Ready to go on an urban hike yourself? Stay tuned to Angel’s facebook page or Eli’s blog – they happen just about every Saturday. And, come April of next year, prepare yourself for an all-day hike of the full 22-mile BeltLine loop!

3 Responses to “Atlanta urban hike along the BeltLine’s newly cleared northeast corridor!”
  1. Richard REynolds says:

    I am a native Atlantan, rail historian, and have always been interested in the old Southern RR belt line (later Norfolk Southern). I can recall it from as far back as the late 1930s.

    I have not been able to find out just when Norfolk Southern last operated a train on the line.

    I think the last business on the line to receive cars was a cement plant near where the belt line crosses over Ralph McGill (nee Forrest Rd.)

    Also, when the West Lumber Co facility on the belt line at Piedmont was demolished, I think the tracks at the crossing got torn up preventing any train from going south thereof.

    Can anyone tell me when the last train operated?

  2. Hi Richard,
    I emailed a friend a few days ago to see if I can get an answer to your question and will let you know what I find out. Thanks for reading!

Check out what others are saying...
  1. […] just did this walk a month ago with Angel and was doing it again so soon as part of our planning efforts to debut the first ever […]

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