By Atlanta BeltLine Blog contributor Melanie Lasoff Levs
When the temperature in Atlanta is in the mid-30s, winds are more than 10 miles per hour, it’s cloudy and – gasp – flurrying, you may not expect anyone to be outside for long, let alone jogging several miles or taking a leisurely walk with a dog.
Weekend pedestrian traffic along the Eastside Trail of the Atlanta BeltLine often resembles a parade. But despite the uncooperative weather on the first Saturday morning in March, the trail still attracted several enthusiasts. These “diehards” bundled in hats, gloves, scarves and puffy coats were unphased by the whipping winds and bitter temperatures, instead embracing the character and accessibility of Atlanta’s newest pedestrian attraction.
Phil Baile, a 70-year-old Ormewood Park resident, is a regular Atlanta BeltLine walker with his large black Bouvier, Erin, who barks furiously if strangers get too close. Despite his dog’s temperament, Baile said he walks with her 10-12 miles per day, and the Eastside Trail is one of his favorite routes. He especially appreciates people watching. “Everybody is here – [representative of] the whole Atlanta population,” Baile said, from seniors to babies in strollers.
Dog-walking along the Atlanta BeltLine is a family affair for Helen Greenfield, 58, from Cabbagetown, and daughter Renee Wright, 42, who lives in Ormewood Park. The two walk the Eastside Trail together weekly with Wright’s mutt, Roxie. Wright declared,
It’s great to be outdoors, get some fresh air. The BeltLine is so artsy – I love looking at the artwork and the sites, and seeing what’s new.
Wright’s favorite pieces are the steel sculptures, including the trio of metal workmen that sit close to the back of Kevin Rathbun Steak restaurant near the beginning of the trail at Irwin Street. “They are just so unique,” she said.
The feeling of safety on the trail also is unique, Wright said. “I love the access to Piedmont Park,” she added. “I rode [my bike] to Music Midtown [last fall] and you feel a lot safer here on a bike than taking the streets.”
Even first-timers ventured out in the disagreeable weather. Marathoner Peter McCauley, who lives near Brookhaven, was training for his first race after taking a few months off due to injury. While he usually runs by Ansley Mall and through Piedmont Park, he decided to finally check out the Atlanta BeltLine, running down to Irwin Street and heading back toward the park. The weather was no deterrent, McCauley, 55, said. “I wanted to push myself today,” he added.
What drew him to continue his jog? McCauley cited the artwork, as well as the number of businesses and residences along the Eastside Trail. The Atlanta BeltLine is “the best thing that’s happened to intown Atlanta since I moved here [in the 1970s],” he said, before planting his earbuds back into his ears and taking off again. “This will make the city more of a pedestrian town, which is what it needs to be.”