How Atlanta is becoming friendlier for walkers, runners


If you like to run, walk, bike in the great outdoors of metro Atlanta, you will find yourself with an ever-growing number of scenic greenways.

Trails include the South Peachtree Creek Trail with a boardwalk connecting the ballfields of Medlock Park to the historic Decatur Waterworks and the Tennis Center at Mason Mill Park, as well as the quiet countryside of the Silver Comet Trail.

Over the past 25 years, the PATH Foundation, a nonprofit organization, has developed more than 250 miles of trails throughout Georgia. A system of linear parks is starting to link the entire city, providing a way to travel, exercise and enjoy the outdoors — on foot, bikes or skates. The PATH trails are transformative, making Atlanta greener, more pedestrian-friendly and a more livable city. The PATH Foundation is also one of the key partners of the Atlanta Beltline, a popular loop of parks and trails in the middle of a bustling metropolis.

“I am a lifer. I have lived in Atlanta all my life,” said Brian Cosgray, a board member of the PATH Foundation. “What excites me is connecting different communities. Atlanta is not the most walkable city by design, but the PATH is making communities more pedestrian- and bike-friendly.”

Several PATH trail projects are in the works and include the following:

The East Decatur Greenway. This project will feature a new 1.2-mile section of trail added to the existing 9 miles of trail that will connect the Avondale MARTA station and the Stone Mountain Trail to multiple neighborhoods south along Katie Kerr Drive and Columbia Drive in Decatur. It is scheduled to be completed in May of next year.

The PATH parkway at Georgia Tech. This new PATH trail, stretching 1.62 miles, will connect West Midtown and Centennial Olympic Park and will transform half of the Tech Parkway into a two-way cycle track with a paralleling walking and jogging path, surrounded by greenery. The cycle track will continue across North Avenue along Luckie Street to a planned Bike Depot at Centennial Olympic Park. The PATH parkway is scheduled to be completed by June of this year.

The 5.2-mile PATH400. Construction started in 2014 for this ambitious greenway, which will connect parks, trails, schools and neighborhoods to the urban core of Buckhead and eventually to the Atlanta Beltline. The trail extends from a historic cemetery site and trailhead off Loridans Drive south to the Atlanta Beltline’s Peachtree Creek spur trail. It will wind through the North Buckhead, Peachtree Park and Lindmont LaVista neighborhoods. When complete, the trail will be a paved 10- to 14-foot-wide multiuse path for cyclists, skaters, walkers and runners. The project is expected to be complete in about three years, but some parts are already complete (see more below on PATH400 trail). Construction for a piece of the PATH400 connecting Miami Circle to Lenox Square mall is expected to start during the coming weeks.

On May 7, hundreds of runners are expected to participate in the Cox Media Group 5K/10K at Chastain Park (see more information about the races in the box). In past years, the PATH has held a sprint triathlon, but organizers decided to switch to a walking and running event, which is expected to appeal to a wider group of exercise enthusiasts. (Cox Media Group, parent company of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, is one of the title sponsors for the race.)

Like other races with a common cause, this event brings together a group of athletes of all levels — eager to put a spotlight on the PATH Foundation, which has become a nationally recognized model for trail-building success. This event is dog-friendly. The 5K run will start on Pool Drive and will go along a paved PATH trail that loops around pretty, well-kept Chastain Park. The route along Lake Forest Drive is dotted with benches and has a stream with landscaped banks. The 10K will complete the loop twice.

The larger goal of the event is to raise awareness about the PATH Foundation’s mission and the costs involved with building and maintaining the trails. Each year, the race has raised between $15,000 and $20,000 — which was split three ways (among the PATH Foundation, the Chastain Park Conservancy and the Chastain Park Athletic Club). This year, the funds will be split between the PATH Foundation and the Chastain Park Conservancy since the event does not include swimming. Early indications suggest more people will participate in the 5K/10K than the TriPATHalon in the past.

On a warm recent afternoon at Chastain Park, several walkers got their exercise along the PATH, with many raving about the recent widening of the PATH along Powers Ferry from 4 feet to over 12 feet.

“It’s awesome that it’s been widened,” said Dana Dowell, a regular walker on the PATH at Chastain Park who lives nearby. “The widening makes it easier to walk with less interruptions, and you are less likely to have to walk right along the edge near traffic.” Dana was walking with her sister Missy, who was visiting from overseas. It was a nice way to catch up, enjoy the outdoors and get some exercise.

“Every time I visit Atlanta, I want to walk here,” said Missy Dowell. “It’s so important to have outlets like this.”

Here are four trails worth checking out:

Arabia Mountain Trail

How to get there: From I-285 and I-20 East, go east on I-20 to the Evans Mill Road exit. Turn right on Evans Mill Road. Go straight through the light at Mall Parkway onto Woodrow Road. Woodrow Road will dead-end into Klondike Road. Turn right on Klondike Road. There is a trailhead on the left less than one-quarter mile and on the right at 1.25 miles.

About the trail: Featuring 7,000 acres of green space southeast of Atlanta, the Arabia Mountain PATH network meanders through rock outcroppings, colorful wildflower fields, rushing streams, and towering pines as it makes its way from the Mall at Stonecrest into Panola Mountain State Park and beyond. The trail system is over 33 miles long, and plans are underway to extend the trails.

Silver Comet Trail

How to get there: Exit from I-285 at South Cobb Drive northbound. Follow South Cobb Drive to Cooper’s Lake Road, where you turn left. Continue less than a mile and turn left onto Mavell Road. Mavell Road dead-ends into the parking area for the trail.

About the trail: Imagine gliding along on your bike through the North Georgia countryside, crossing a 500-foot-long trestle over a rushing river below, winding between rock cliffs and weaving among tall, stately pines. The Silver Comet Trail is about 62 miles long and starts at the Mavell Road Trailhead in Smyrna.

South Peachtree Creek Trail

How to enter: Take I-85 to Clairmont Road, then go south to McConnell Drive. Then go left on McConnell Drive to parking at Mason Mill Tennis Center.

About the trail: The South Peachtree Creek Trail meanders through Mason Mill Park as a boardwalk along the banks of the creek. Take a scenic, leisurely walk along this trail that connects the ballfields and parking area at Medlock Park to the historic Decatur Waterworks and the Tennis Center at Mason Mill Park.

PATH400 Trail

How to get there: The PATH400 trail begins at Lenox Road and Piedmont Road, across from South of the Border Mexican Restaurant.

About the trail: PATH is partnering with Livable Buckhead and the Buckhead CID and Georgia Department of Transportation to build a trail from the Atlanta Beltline to I-285 and beyond. The first segment is open between Lenox Road near Piedmont Road to Old Ivy Road. Note: There is currently no public parking specifically for the trail.

EVENT PREVIEW

The Cox Media Group 5K/10K at Chastain Park

May 7 at Chastain Park, 235 W. Wieuca Road, Atlanta. Race begins at 8 a.m.

$25 for 5K until April 25 and then price increases to $30.

$35 for 10K until April 25 and then price increases to $40.

Family registration is $10 per person. This event is dog-friendly (dogs must be on leash).

Note: T-shirt sizes cannot be guaranteed for registrations received after April 19.

To register, go to https://pathfoundation.org/

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