Walking the Atlanta BeltLine with an international conference of teen students

Last week, we had the pleasure of participating in BBYO’s International Convention by leading a group of almost 90 teens in a walk along the Atlanta BeltLine Eastside Trail. The mission of BBYO is to connect Jewish teens of all backgrounds to inspire them to live Jewish lives while making a difference in the world. In that spirit, the recurring theme of the day was giving back to one’s community. Rob Brawner, Program Director for the Atlanta BeltLine Partnership, gave the opening talk with an overview of the project (as seen above).

Eastside Trail walk with BBYO - over the Clear Creek bridge
Students started their walk with their first crossing over Clear Creek.

We started our walk by accessing the Atlanta BeltLine trail behind Ansley Mall. Two school buses pulled in behind the Publix that faces Monroe Drive where there is a gate onto the corridor (this is open to the public, so we encourage you to get out and explore the trail!).

Eastside Trail walk with BBYO - walking under the Georgia Tech sculpture
Teens passed through the Georgia Tech sculpture located behind Ansley Mall.

We talked about abutting communities’ involvement with the Atlanta BeltLine and how people give back to the project (programs like Adopt the Atlanta BeltLine are a perfect example) – and how the project depends on such active and passionate residents!

Eastside Trail walk with BBYO - under the Piedmont Avenue bridge
We paused under the Piedmont Avenue bridge (the acoustics always make it easier to talk).

Underneath the Piedmont Avenue bridge, we stopped for Angel Poventud (super volunteer) and Jenny Pittam (Communications Coordinator) to talk about Art on the Atlanta BeltLine, graffiti, and clean-ups. As we were walking, students commented on the piles of trash along the side of the trail. We explained that an Adopt the Atlanta BeltLine group had recently come through for their monthly clean-up and that was a result. Atlanta has had its back to this historic rail corridor for so many years that it is going to take a while to clean up and to adjust to the corridor as a new public place.

Eastside Trail walk with BBYO - Lewis Gulch
Passing through Lewis Gulch just north of the Piedmont Park expansion.

We continued south from Piedmont Avenue, crossed over Clear Creek for a second time, and passed through Lewis Gulch. Here is another access point to the Atlanta BeltLine – from the Piedmont Park parking deck. You can also walk off of Monroe Drive to the right of the driveway to the parking deck or walk down Dutch Valley Way.

Eastside Trail walk with BBYO - lunch at Piedmont Park
Our group stopped for a sack lunch at Park Tavern overlooking Piedmont Park.

We took a lunch break on the patio of Park Tavern (which isn’t open during lunch, but the owner, who is a big Atlanta BeltLine supporter, allowed us to take over outside). With attendees from all over North America, this was a great chance to soak in the skylines of Midtown and Downtown Atlanta. Liz Coyle of the BeltLine Network spoke about the grassroots beginning of the project and how citizens embraced the project from the time it was envisioned as an “emerald necklace” of the city.

We parted from the trail after lunch due to active construction on the Eastside Trail starting at 10th Street and Monroe Drive. After a small detour, we arrived in Historic Fourth Ward Park where we introduced the group to this sweeping retaining basin – and Kevin Burke, Senior Landscape Architect for the Atlanta BeltLine.

Eastside Trail walk with BBYO - Historic Fourth Ward Park
The BBYO youth organization took over the ampitheater at Historic Fourth Ward Park.

Kevin elaborated on the park’s creation and sustainable features while Jay Tribby, Chief of Staff to Councilman Kwanza Hall, expounded on how the idea for the park started with the neighborhood. This park is now a focal point of the intown neighborhood of Old Fourth Ward which is undergoing a renaissance resurgence.

Our group of 90+ people headed south through the rest of the park and down to the Historic Fourth Ward Skatepark.

Eastside Trail walk with BBYO - Historic Fourth Ward Skatepark
After stopping for ice cream and to admire the skateboarders, teens gathered for the final speaker.

At the skatepark, Lynnette Reid, Community Engagement Advocate, honed in on how the Atlanta BeltLine reaches and involves the community in the project. One of our big focuses is ensuring the residents of Atlanta have the most up-to-date information about the project and know how they can get involved. Click here for more information about community engagement and more info on volunteering with the Atlanta BeltLine.

We bowed out at the end of the walking tour to allow the group time for reflection with their leaders. We left them with the reminder to keep an eye out for the Atlanta BeltLine in their local news and to share with people that they walked the trail!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *