The idea of being able to connect public green spaces along the Creek by simple trails appealed to founding Conservancy members in 2008, as did the goal of restoring the Creek and reconnecting people to the natural environment. After securing nonprofit standing and initial financial support from the Million Mile Greenway and The Kendeda Fund, the group was on its way. As word spread, the board quickly expanded to include trail builders, landscape architects, historians and ecologists, all of whom were excited about what could be accomplished in service to the watershed, to the communities served by it, and to the 75,000+ individuals living within easy walking distance of the South Fork.
In the fall of 2010, the Conservancy engaged Perkins+Will to create the South Fork Watershed Protection, Conservation and Connection Plan. Led by Ryan Gravel, the Georgia Tech student who originally envisioned the Atlanta BeltLine, a team of urban planners and ecologists inventoried the Creek’s existing conditions, identified preferred improvements, and laid out seven possible trail segments discerned from close observation of the watershed, research, and stakeholder interviews.
Almost immediately, the Conservancy began organizing enthusiastic volunteers, equipping them with mulch and clippers to begin establishing trails. The natural treasure that is the South Fork was being uncovered and brought into view!
In addition, the Conservancy has brought together the Atlanta Botanical Garden, Trees Atlanta, and the Piedmont Park Conservancy to participate in the Peachtree Creek Confluence Restoration project. Partially funded by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, this project will result in the removal of invasive species and the restoration of three acres of land bordering the headwaters of Peachtree Creek. Native species plants will be used to replace kudzu, privet, and other non-native invasive plants along .22 miles of the South Fork.
Four stretches of the proposed trails are now sufficiently underway to suggest how the proposed Creek Trail can uncover Atlanta’s hidden greenspaces:
Accessible from Lindbergh Drive, this 1.5 mile trail leads to the convergence of the North and South forks of the Creek and the beginning of Peachtree Creek. The meadow trailhead site provides a beautiful view of Midtown Atlanta, while the simple mulched trail takes you past a varied landscape of meadows, woods, and Creek views.
A mile long trail hugs the Creek and curves underneath I-85, leading to a view of the convergence of the North and South Forks to form Peachtree Creek.
Old growth forest shelters the South Fork between Morningside Nature Preserve and Herbert Taylor Daniel Johnson Park in the City of Atlanta. The Creek runs south of Zonolite Place by a newly-established 13-acre DeKalb County park.
With the attention drawn to this area by the Conservancy and its partners, the Lindbergh-LaVista Corridor Coalition and Zonolite merchants, a remediation project to repair environmental damage to the floodplain in this area caused by historical industrial contamination was carried out by DeKalb County and the Environmental Protection Agency at a cost of more than two million dollars. The project was funded by the company responsible for the contamination.
Subsequent to the brownfield restoration project, detailed planning for the new Zonolite Park and Nickel Bottom Community Garden was paid for by the Conservancy with matching funds provided by the merchants and neighborhood residents.
This nearly half-mile trail along the North Fork begins at Lindbergh Drive, across from the South Fork’s Meadow Loop. Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) funds are being used to mitigate the damage being done as a consequence of creating new access loops for I-85 and GA 400. Neighborhood residents and Conservancy staff and volunteers have been involved with the trail design, and GDOT staff members are following design criteria and guidelines established by the South Fork Conservancy.