Accessing Piedmont Park from Morningside or Ansley Park by foot hasn't always been easy. Possible, yes, but not always easy. Walkers had to hoof it to the entrance that leads to the greenspace's parking deck. Or weave down a side street to reach the Atlanta Beltline and ultimately hike to Piedmont Park's popular meadow. Maybe there's a desire path or two between houses.
Starting today, visitors to Atlanta's most well-known park will have several new entrances - and a new 12.5-acre area where they can lounge and relax - at their disposal.
The new area known as Piedmont Commons is nestled on the park's northern edge on former Atlanta Department of Watershed Management property that now expands its footprint to Piedmont Avenue and Monroe Drive. The commons builds upon new parkland that opened in 2011 and offers nearby residents better access to the nearly 200-acre park.
"From the beginning of this portion of the fundraising we've been saying that this creates a walkable connection between Ansley Park, Virginia-Highland, Morningside, and Midtown," Yvette Bowden, president of the Piedmont Park Conservancy, told CL on Wednesday. "That wasn't a possibility before. Now people have a way to do that. That's a pretty big deal. This creates brand new opportunities for people to get around and use this portion of the city."
After the jump, many more photos of the expansion.
It also marks the completion of the first phase of Piedmont Park's planned 53-acre expansion. Nearly 41 acres of the $43.5 million plan are now open to the public with additional amenities planned to be built and opened in the coming years.
The new areas, which will be officially opened today by Mayor Kasim Reed and city and park officials, include a short trail accessible from Piedmont Avenue next to the Atlanta Botanical Garden that weaves through a dense forest known as Walker Woods. The trail ends at stairs that lead to a paved black-top path.
Take a right along the path along Clear Creek, a once-polluted tributary of the Chattahoochee River that flows north into Ansley Park, and you'll arrive at the dog park, interactive fountain, and wetlands that opened two years ago.
Turn left and - in addition to crossing the Beltline, which forms Piedmont Park's eastern border - you'll see Piedmont Commons. Two bridges span the creek, which has been restored with lush vegetation to coax wildlife back to the waterway. (Turtles, snakes, and some fish have started reappearing, we hear.) Stones uncovered during the construction phase were left along the loop to serve as natural benches.
In addition to an access point along Dutch Valley Road, a new pedestrian entrance along Monroe Drive featuring knockout roses, perennials, tickseed, and other flowers will serve the greenspace. Westminster Drive, long a secret parking area and access point to the rustic Beltline hiking trail, has also received a makeover, replete with a turnaround area where park officials envision school buses picking up and dropping off children.
The 12.5-acre expansion is an improvement but has a ways to go. When CL visited on Wednesday, irrigation systems still lined the area's lawns. The multi-use field looks and feels much like the Beltline's Eastside Trail when it first opened. It needs time to evolve and breathe. Eventually the 210 trees donated by Trees Atlanta will grow and fill out. The fence along Piedmont Avenue will also eventually be removed, completely opening the park to the street.
What comes next? Bowden says a donor has contributed the funding to start the design of the second and final phase of the expansion, which envisions turning land along Monroe Drive into a community garden and building a new playground - and potentially a skate park - in Piedmont Commons.
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