Volunteers improve a path along the South Fork of Peachtree Creek to create a walking trail and connect green spaces of Atlanta.
By Margaret Landers | Buckhead Patch
The unceasing whizz of traffic echoed from beyond the bend in the creek, competing with the chirping melodies of birds in the tops of the maples. Two Canadian geese paddled along the creek water, now brown and thick with mud from the recent rains. The scent of honeysuckle lifted in the air, only to be quickly suppressed by putrid sewage fumes leaking up from their pipes underground.
On Wednesday, about 20 volunteers — armed with sling blades, chainsaws, clippers, cutters and Prosecutor solution — trekked through the overgrown trail alongside Peachtree Creek to fight for the life of the waterway and clear a path so the public can enjoy it.
Sally Sears of the South Fork Conservancy, which is heading up the project, commanded the troops from the trailhead, on the cul de sac of Armand Road. Machete Man Jeremy Dahl was there, armed with multiple machetes and a well-versed knowledge of forest sustainability. Professionals came from Jackson Spalding as part of the firm’s “Day in the Field” initiative. Other crew leaders came from the Conservancy, Olmsted Linear Park Alliance, and Peachtree Hills.
Volunteer Dave Kaufman knows the trail and the creek well; he canoed it in the ’90s, and wrote a book, “Peachtree Creek ,” highlighting the watershed and its need for preservation. “Peachtree Creek is a well-kept secret in general,” he said. “I’d hate to see it just getting paved.”
The team’s efforts focused on clearing an open walking trail, hopefully suitable for buggies to roll upon, cutting down invasive plants from the forest, and building a culvert of stones to bridge the path across a minor trench. Sears’ vision is a safe and beautiful place for the Atlanta community to share and enjoy. She said, “This is for the mamas, the grandmamas, the babies…” She called Peachtree Creek a neglected treasure. “People have loved this creek for a long time,” she said.
Lindridge Martin Manor resident Bob Scott often walks the trail with his dogs. This spring the weeds have overgrown much of the remaining path. “Mother nature has taken over,” he said. Scott spent the first half of the afternoon hacking away at weeds and vines to clear the footpath near the trailhead. “It’s a lot tougher going than we thought,” he said, wiping sweat from his forehead.
Dahl knows the science behind the degradation of the forest. He said the biggest threat to a forest is insularization, or dividing a forest into pieces separated by urban development. “We (biology conservationists) call it the eternal external threat,” he said, “Divide, divide, divide.” Dahl explained that when a forest’s size is cut by dividers, the amount of plant and animal species in each forest section decreases exponentially, leading to extinction. But when forests are connected, the species growth is “fantastic.” The process is called the species area effect. “My aim is to connect up the forest,” he said. Dahl recognized the importance of upkeeping the health of Peachtree Creek. “The biological corridors are our streams.”
Sears recognized the proximity of Atlanta’s existing parks along Peachtree Creek, and she’s working with the conservancy and community supporters to make the connection. The project will encompass about two miles of trails, leading from the entrance behind the Cedar Chase condominiums off Lindbergh Drive, under Ga. 400 and I-85, to the confluence of the north and south forks of the creek.
One section of the path leads directly underneath 400 and 85, into a den of jumbled rock, spray-paint artistry and abodes of the homeless. Kaufman called the space a “cathedral of potential” for the future green pathway. He said it could be a sculpture garden or a skate park.
Sears said the project is gaining momentum and public awareness as the conservancy recei es modest grants and neighborhood support. Morningside Elementary School has provided support, as well as the Kendeda Fund and the MillionMile Greenway. Kaufman said completion of the project is a matter of manpower and money. “So far, so good,” he said