A new section of Piedmont Park opens to the public at an 11 a.m. Thursday ceremony at the park, but on Monday some park visitors were strolling through the new acreage enjoying a sneak preview.
One of those visitors was a blue heron, wading in the newly cleaned-up waters of Clear Creek, which flows north through the park after crossing under 10th Street.
Just beyond the heron, a turtle paddled in the water, plopping out of sight near one of two new pedestrian bridges that span the creek in the 12.5-acre Piedmont Commons.
The commons comprise the park’s newest acreage, tucked into the sharp north end of the park’s 189-acre triangle, between Piedmont Avenue and Monroe Drive.
Still festooned with white PVC pipes to provide temporary irrigation for the grassy expanse at the center of the commons, the area is a work in progress, and will eventually include a playground, and perhaps a skate park.
These amenities will come later, but the new section will probably change the way the park is used almost immediately, by providing three new entrances for pedestrian access to residents in the Ansley Mall, Dutch Valley and Morningside areas. The entrances also provide access to the Beltline, which crosses through the park near the commons.
Previously visitors to the park coming from the north were obliged to either drive and park in the new parking deck, off of Monroe, or walk south a considerable distance. The north end of the park was a cul-de-sac, which discouraged regular use at that end, and parts of it were used by the city as a dumping ground for green waste and construction equipment.
“It was inaccessible except to people who wanted to go back there and have inappropriate behavior,” said Chris Nelson, executive vice president of the Piedmont Park Conservancy, the non-profit that, since its creation in 1989, has raised $41.2 million for the first phase of improvements to the park.
Those improvements include a new aquatic center, a LEED-certified event facility, two dog parks, green space and a splash fountain.
In addition to the commons, the newest area added to the park includes an unpaved hiking trail through the Walker Woods area and paved paths running from the Legacy Fountain to the commons. Such projects will eventually add 53 acres, some of which was already part of the park but was never usable.
The conservancy has also opened up part of Clear Creek, a tributary to the Chattahoochee that is culverted and channeled for most of its length. Working with the Upper Chattahoochee Riverkeeper and the Environmental Protection Division, the conservancy removed the concrete channels for part of the creek’s length, cleared the area around six springs that supplied the creek, and used natural plantings and granite blocks to stabilize the creek’s shore and to create oxygenating riffles.
“Look at that turtle,” said Nelson, as he piloted a golf-cart toward the Piedmont Commons on Monday. “The reason that turtle is there is because there are fish in that creek, and the reason there are fish in that creek is because the creek is alive. Five years ago this creek was dead.”
The grand opening of Piedmont Park’s newest pakland will take place at 11 a.m. Thursday in the Piedmont Commons area of the park, near the intersection of Piedmont and Monroe, at the Park’s maintenance building, off of Westminster Drive. For information, 404-875-7275, www.piedmontpark.org/