Guess who turned ten years old last month?
The Atlanta BeltLine Partnership gave its first bus tour of the Atlanta BeltLine on April 13, 2007. 1,887 people participated in one of 85 tours given that first year. (By comparison, the Partnership hosted 4,160 tour-goers on 168 separate tours during 2016.)
Heather Hussey-Coker was our very first tour guide. Heather ended up with BeltLine in her blood and now works full time for Atlanta BeltLine, Inc. as Special Projects Manager.
“On those first Fridays and Saturdays it was just me and our driver Bobby in an empty parking lot wondering if anyone would show up,” Heather says. “We required reservations only to make sure we’d have enough participants to take on the tour. By summer, something had changed, though, and people started showing up in droves. After that, we were booked solid the rest of the year.”
Heather Hussey-Coker gets ready to lead a bus tour – before there was any Atlanta BeltLine to see.
Heather talks about the challenge of giving a 3-hour tour of an Atlanta BeltLine that didn’t yet exist.
“Three hours seemed like a long time to fill on those early tours—especially since the Atlanta BeltLine was just a concept then. Serious planning had begun, but there wasn’t a whole lot to see yet.”
Heather has fond memories of being a tour guide as the project took shape and people began to see the potential it had to improve quality of life – for everyone.
Some of our first bus tour-goers – with Heather as their guide.
“On those early tours, I had the privilege of watching just the concept of an Atlanta BeltLine transform tour-goers as they made a brand new and exciting connection with their city. Ten years later the Atlanta BeltLine is much more tangible, and the bus tours are still the best way for people to make that initial connection with the project.”
Rob Brawner is ABP’s Executive Director today. As the Partnership’s Program Director in 2007, he helped grow tours that were periodically given by the Trust for Public Land into an ongoing program.
“Our bus tour was the first of many programs introduced by the Partnership over the past decade,” says Brawner, “and they remain one of the most impactful in terms of sharing the Atlanta BeltLine vision with the public, and for giving people a true feel for the scope and scale of the project. Consistently, the feedback we get is that people see parts of the city they never knew existed. After the tour, not only are people now familiar with these communities, but they come away with a true sense of how we all benefit from a more connected Atlanta.”
Sundiata Rush took one of those early Atlanta BeltLine bus tours. Today, he coordinates a group of six Atlanta BeltLine bus tour guides (with three more currently in training) and he’s probably given more than a hundred tours himself.
“As the Atlanta BeltLine has emerged, it’s been amazing to watch the tour evolve,” says Rush, “including the greater amount of content we cover, and the real-time, ever-changing landscape we see around the city. It’s cool to share the vision with folks and talk about all the changes and progress underway.”
Sundiata Rush lending his insight to a recent group of bus tour-goers.
“The BeltLine is having a direct impact on how we live and engage with each other,” Rush continues. “Over time I’ve seen a shift in the attitude of many residents from general interest in a trail project being built in their community, to shared ownership of a multi-faceted redevelopment effort they can help shape.”
In 2007, we used a rather generic looking bus with an Atlanta BeltLine sign stuck on the side. Today our bus is gloriously wrapped in Atlanta BeltLine colors – you’ve probably seen her as she makes her way through the 45 communities connected by the 22-mile loop every Friday and Saturday morning for public tours and the rest of the week for private tours.
We’re a little biased – but we love our bus! Have you seen her around town?
New for 2017: IHG Foundation came aboard as Presenting Sponsor for our bus tours. A portion of IHG’s funding goes toward providing access to tours for groups that otherwise might not be able to experience an Atlanta BeltLine bus tour. In announcing the sponsorship, IHG Foundation Board Member Paul Snyder said:
“As the IHG Foundation marks our one-year anniversary, we are excited to begin working with the Atlanta BeltLine Partnership. Through the bus tour program, thousands of people from all walks of life will be able to experience the Atlanta BeltLine firsthand. We are proud to support an innovative organization that shares our goal of investing in the transformation and improvement of local communities.”
With all the exciting developments taking place along the Atlanta BeltLine today, there’s no better time than now to take a tour. Tours leave from the Inman Park/Reynoldstown MARTA station every Friday and Saturday at 9:30 a.m. and return to the same location three hours later. Get a firsthand view of the project everyone’s talking about. Sign up for a tour today here.