Zonolite Park

Zonolite Park, now owned by DeKalb County, features 1.5 miles of gravel trails through 13 acres. The area includes an old-growth forest, a sunny meadow, small rivulets and a beautiful wetland garden. The creek's sandy beach-like banks are perfect for getting an up-close view of the water. Wildlife seen here includes deer, fish, frogs and birds – including a pair of Great Blue Heron - songbirds and hawks. 

Where is it, and where do I park?

The trailhead is located on Zonolite Place, near the intersection of Johnson Road and Briarcliff in DeKalb County.  Parking is available. The park is surrounded by greenspace and the old growth forests of Morningside Nature Preserve and Herbert Taylor-Daniel Johnson Park. 

Spring 2011: The EPA removed toxic waste from what was then a brownfield.

Spring 2011: The EPA removed toxic waste from what was then a brownfield.


Proposed layout for Nickel Bottom Community Garden

A community garden is also planned!

What is in the name?

In a dusty file folder in a Zonolite office, the floodplain was referred to as NickelBottom. Garden enthusiasts seized on the name as a perfect reminder that rich bottom land is best for gardens. The current CSX railroad tracks laid in the 1880's  separated this area from east-west routes toward what is now Buckhead.  Oral history suggests a community of freed men and women may have lived here in the early 20th century and named it Nickel Bottom.  If you have historic photos, or an interest in digging deeper into the rich history of this area, please contact us.

When can I plant a row of tomatoes?

Soon! A solid plan for the garden funded by neighbors and the South Fork Conservancy let us apply for grants for garden building. DeKalb County is managing federal recreational trail dollars won in 2013 to improve the trails and put interpretive signs in place telling the story of this successful brownfield to greenfield transformation.

Critters like this green tree frog demonstrate the health of the ecosystem. Thanks to photographer Eric Bowles for sharing him with us.

Every day, frogs and songbirds are heard "voicing" their support as families with children, and workers from the nearby offices, walk the creek and pond trail. A full ecosystem of meadow, pond, forest and creek has returned, with a broad bio-diversity of previously absent animals, insects and plants. 



The park is named after insulation manufactured here which was sold under the trade name Zonolite. When South Fork Conservancy planners looked downstream of Emory University, a 12-acre stretch of creek bank leaped off the maps. It turned out to be a long-neglected industrial wasteland contaminated by asbestos and overgrown by kudzu and invasive plants. In 2010, property owners teamed with Conservancy volunteers to ask the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to force the polluters to clean up the waste. Three years - and $2 million later - the land was free of any detectable asbestos traces. The complex grading and ecological restoration design by Sylvatica Studio's Susan Stainback created a sloping meadow with a pond, which cleanses rainwater before it reaches the creek.