Beltline makes strides one path, park at a time

Inch by inch and path by path, Atlanta Beltline Inc.'s quest to thread a 22-mile loop of greenspace, trails and transit around the city's intown neighborhoods is gaining ground.

In April, the group opened the Northside trail. October saw the creation of the Gordon White and Rose Circle parks in the city's West End. And coming June 26: the opening of Phase II of the West End trail.

To generate public awareness of its progress, Atlanta Beltline has launched "Art on the Beltline: Atlanta's New Public Place." The temporary exhibition places art along two Beltline paths -- the trail from Washington Park to Allene Avenue in West Atlanta and the trail from Piedmont Park to Memorial Drive on the city's east side.

A ceremony to kickoff the four-month art project will be held at 4 p.m. Saturday at Gordon White Park at the intersection of White Street and Ralph David Abernathy Boulevard.

"When were realized what an asset we had with the Beltline as a public realm, it became really important to entice people to walk it," said Fred Yalouris, director of design for the Beltline. "It's healthy, it's revealing, it shows you parts of the city that you've never seen before."

Atlanta Beltline has been striving for the past several years to turn abandoned rail tracks that ring the city into space that is walkable and will include a light rail line. The group also is tasked with adding to the city's park space.

The art project includes 33 pieces chosen from 177 proposals, Yalouris said. Residents from the neighborhoods came out to install the pieces as well as clear brush along the trails.

Officials found a couple of the pieces defaced by graffiti during a walk through the West End trail on Wednesday. Yalouris said the graffiti would be cleaned by Saturday's opening.

Rod Pittam created a two-panel billboard called "Historical Vignettes of the West End," a look at the district at the turn of the last century. He said his work was inspired by how well the black and white communities in the area once worked together.

"The communities over the years have addressed any issues, worked it all out, up until the '60s," he said. "A lot of people attribute [the end of community unity] to I-20 coming through. That ripped the neighborhood in two."