Beltline breaks ground in Southwest Atlanta

SHOVELS AND SMILES: Do these look like the faces of people who just lost $860 million?

It’s a cold Saturday morning in Southwest Atlanta, and more than 100 people gather to witness the ceremonial beginning of the Beltline. It’s here in West End at Rose Circle Park where the first two miles of the project — a bike trail built in cooperation with PATH — will hug White Street and run north. Crews removed a lane of the road to build the trail.

As civic and business leaders, cyclists and neighborhood residents looked on, Beltline advocates, including Mayor Shirley Franklin, City Councilmembers Cleta Winslow and Caesar Mitchell, project visionary Ryan Gravel and others grabbed shovels and pierced the ground to mark the first phase of the public works project.

“This is exciting,” Franklin said after the ceremony. “The Beltline’s been a long time coming. And it starts with a little trail in West End. It’s a lot of hard work based on the vision of a young person. I mean, look at this crowd.” She gestures toward the mix of faces in attendance and the children playing basketball on the courts adjacent to the site. “This is what makes cities great. People from all backgrounds, coming together.”

But with all the excitement, one couldn’t help but to feel a little chagrined. It’s a really big project starting small. And it’s just two weeks after the state Supreme Court ruled that a hefty chunk of change would be off-limits to Beltline advocates. Planners and proponents of the massive endeavor have said they will push forward, with or without the school tax funds from the tax allocation district.

(Photo by Thomas Wheatley)