The vision for converting an abandoned railway corridor circling downtown Atlanta into a network of public parks, multi-use trails and transit - known as the BeltLine - began life as a doctoral thesis by Georgia Tech student Ryan Gravel in 1999. With Monday's opening of the Eastside Trail, Gravel's vision, which saw its transit plan take a hit with the rejection of a proposed transit sales tax in July, is facing another reality check.
"Ed McBrayer, executive director of PATH, the organization charged with the corridor's construction oversight, calls this section 'a big first step. This will be a model case to see if the Beltline can be all that we think it can be,' he said. 'This starts a network we've been looking for, for 20 years. It will be a trail connecting Fernbank to Centennial Park (downtown) to the MLK Center, to Piedmont Park to Freedom Parkway. You can travel to a lot of destinations that mean something.'"
Also, McBrayer added, "This section will either prove or disprove that economic development will follow greenspace as we think it might."