Over the past three years, our neighbors in southwest Atlanta have shown a lot of patience with construction progress on the Westside Trail. On Friday, September 29, we all came together to celebrate the culmination of that progress. The ribbon was cut on the Westside Trail near the White Street access point, just across from Gordon White Park.
Beginning with a groundbreaking celebration in November 2014, construction has been ongoing to create this 3-mile addition, which will eventually connect hundreds of thousands of Atlanta residents to transit and transportation alternatives. Running from University Avenue between the Oakland City and West End MARTA rail stations up to Washington Park, near the Ashby MARTA rail station, the trail is one more step toward the Atlanta BeltLine’s promise to create a more affordable and connected Atlanta for all.
At 4 p.m. on Friday afternoon, our ceremony began with remarks from our honorable guest, Congressman John Lewis of U.S. District 5, covering most of Atlanta. Representative Lewis is a civil rights icon and activist, and also apparently an Atlanta BeltLine fan, thanking everyone for their work and saying the Atlanta BeltLine neighborhoods would be “beautiful.”
Mayor Kasim Reed, whose leadership at the City of Atlanta has been indispensable to the progress of the Atlanta BeltLine, delivered opening remarks at the ceremony. Brian McGowan took the helm at his first major event as Atlanta BeltLine, Inc.’s (ABI) new President and CEO. Mr. McGowan joins ABI to steer the project in the direction of equity, affordability, and inclusiveness, promising in his remarks to preserve the integrity of southwest Atlanta’s historic neighborhoods.
Attendees also heard from Dallas Clement, Executive Vice President & CFO for Cox Enterprises, Chairman of the Atlanta BeltLine Partnership (ABP) Board of Directors, and ABI Board Member, speaking on behalf of the James M. Cox Foundation/PATH Foundation, who was the lead philanthropic donor to the Westside Trail. Jim Simpson, President of Kaiser Permanente of Georgia (KPGA), introduced recipients of the inaugural Westside Trail Community Health Grants, a funding initiative by KPGA and ABP to improve health outcomes and quality of life in Atlanta’s Westside communities. Recipients are listed below.
Other featured speakers at the event included Georgia Department of Transportation Board Member Stacey Key; Atlanta City Councilmembers Cleta Winslow and Joyce Sheperd; and Grady High School student Maya Hadley and Washington High School student Markail Brooks. Maya is also a Fulton County Youth Commissioner, representing ABI’s key funding partners in the Tax Allocation District – Atlanta Public Schools and Fulton County.
The staff at ABI and at the Atlanta BeltLine Partnership (ABP) couldn’t be more excited about the turnout from the community, and the positive spirit and support every one of you brought to the afternoon. The celebration felt like one giant family reunion with southwest Atlanta.
The ribbon-cutting was followed by a community celebration, where local groups were invited to come engage with the community and promote their small businesses or organizations. Kaiser Permanente sponsored free health and wellness activities as part of the celebration. Celebrators were also treated to free pizza, donuts, and popsicles donated by Dunkin Donuts and King of Pops. Leading an inaugural march down the Westside Trail, Kebbi Williams and Wolf Pack ATL walked from KIPP Strive Academy to Gordon White, bringing music to the party along the way.
The opening of the Westside Trail is an achievement the staff at ABI and ABP have been working toward for many months, and we are proud that this new 3-mile trail segment is now available for everyone to enjoy. Our deepest heartfelt gratitude, though, goes out to the Atlanta community, particularly our neighbors in Adair Park, Pittsburgh, Capitol View, Oakland City, Mozely Park, West End, Hunter Hills, Vine City, Ashview Heights, Washington Park, and Westview. Without grassroots support, the Atlanta BeltLine would still be just an idea rather than a growing, evolving project. At its heart, the Atlanta BetlLine is a transportation and redevelopment initiative, but it is one that is first and foremost for the people and must be championed by those people. We are determined to never lose sight of that ultimate priority. The BeltLine, if implemented with thoughtfulness and care, can help to create infrastructure that promotes equity, affordability, and access to jobs. The opening of the Westside Trail is one more step in that direction.
The grand opening is just the first of many exciting events to take place on the newly-paved trail in southwest Atlanta. Art on the Atlanta BeltLine installations will remain in the corridor through mid-November. Design work for the expansion of Enota Park is in the preliminary procurement stages. Washington Park and Gordon White Park are reconnected by the corridor once again. And the Urban Farm at Allene Avenue continues to grow fresh produce to sell to the local community.
You can stay abreast of all things Westside Trail by visiting our dedicated trail page. We’ll also document the trail through the years by building on our Westside Trail gallery. We hope you’ll continue to be an important part of the Atlanta BeltLine’s future as we start a new chapter in southwest Atlanta!
The Westside Trail Community Health grantees are:
- Atlanta Community Foodbank
- Atlanta ContactPoint
- Girls on the Run
- Grady Health System
- Truly Living Well
- Georgia Conservancy
- Insight Cultural Tourism
- Wholistic Stress Control Institute