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North Buckhead Leader Issues Message About Ga. 400 Trail

Gordon Certain urges residents ot learn as much as they can and share opinions

From Patch Reports

Editor's Note: North Buckhead Civic Association President Gordon Certain has been a leader of efforts to develop more parks for his community. With , Certain sent the following message to civic association members. Buckhead Patch reprints it from a recent email Certain sent out about the trail.

"I have lived here in North Buckhead for 37 years and for the last 12 have been president of NBCA. I have learned a lot about the neighborhood during those years and have seen a lot of change. I have always been interested in understanding land use. In one of my more analytical moments a few years ago, I figured out that at least 7% of the land area of North Buckhead was owned by the Georgia DOT. That included acres of pavement and more acres of wooded land along GA 400. That land with all the trees acts as a sound barrier, so it has a definite purpose. But it wasn't much of a leap to wonder, with so much land and so few neighborhood parks, if some part of that wooded land might be used by the neighborhood for something else. 

So back in 2007, long before LBI came on the scene, several of us hiked along the Ga. 400 right-of-way to see if it could be used as a trail or maybe as a linear park. What we saw were extended areas that were perfectly plausible locations for a hiking path. These plausible areas were sometimes joined by narrow bottlenecks where the presence of hikers might be very unsettling to homeowners whose lawns reach almost to the highway's sound wall. We left thinking that this right-of-way represented a big recreation opportunity tightly coupled to a likelihood of making some neighbors pretty upset. The devil is always in the details. In the years since then the possibility of a linear park (multi-use path for bicyclists, skaters, walkers and runners) has come closer to a reality. Whether the devil is still in the details remains to be seen as planning progresses.

Certainly not everybody will agree on the Ga. 400 Trail. We as humans almost never agree on any concept, project or thing. If we always agreed, we would only have one political party, one religion and one brand of car. But that is not the way we are. So, the Ga. 400 Trail is sure to have its proponents and opponents. Our task as a community is to figure out if it is sufficiently good that it should be celebrated or sufficiently bad for the neighborhood (or for particular homeowners) that we should try to keep it out of our neighborhood. More likely opinion will be somewhere in between and we will have to work out whether or not it can be changed enough to at least be tolerated.  

I talked with one of our board members who has visited a number of other Atlanta area neighborhoods with multi-use paths. She had spoken to dozens of people using these trails. Noting that hers was not a scientific poll, she said: "Not one single person expressed negative views. The vast majority were enthusiastic supporters, including some who said they'd originally been skeptical. I often heard comments like, 'Best thing that ever happened around here,' 'We're out here every day,' and 'I love it!'"

So, assuming it is well-designed and well-built, the Ga. 400 Trail could be transformative to the neighborhood, at least for those who like to walk, jog or bike, offering new and safe ways to get around the neighborhood. For those who don't, maybe it will make the neighborhood more attractive to buyers and home values will increase. Maybe not. 

OK. Where do we stand? 

  • Is it a "done deal" or is it a project in the earliest planning stages?  The Ga. 400 Trail is intended to be a major project. The cost of current planning efforts is approaching one million dollars and the projected total cost is around ten million. An appreciable amount of time and money has been spent planning it so it has momentum and backing.  
  • Are the plans for the trail detailed and firm?  We have been told about 5% of the detailed planning has been completed.    

What do we do next? We need to pay attention, learn as much as we can, and share our opinions. 

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