Hiking the untouched Southside Beltline Trail was a difficult feat. It was a hot day, there were thorns and weeds all over the ground, and the insects drove me insane. However, the trek was completely worth it. As a student attempting to piece together what the Beltline truly is, I felt that documenting this section was very necessary.
As you hike this man-made trail, the amount of kudzu surrounding you might be the first and only thing you observe. However, with continued investigation, you will notice the historic railroad still in existence right next to your feet. Yes, it is nearly invisible due to the amount of overgrowth, but it is there. For someone who appreciates the Beltline project and its intentions, this spot should be fascinating and imaginative. Having walked the completely finished parts of the Beltline myself, I constantly looked down both ends of the path trying to imagine what a completed Beltline trail would look like. Would it bring in new businesses? Would these empty spaces become parks and recreational facilities? Would people use this trail leisurely or simply as a mode of transportation?
From a political standpoint, the funds necessary to clean out a space like this one are going to be hefty. The Beltline will be under a lot of pressure from Atlantans to use their money wisely and begin showing signs of constructive progress. The completed Eastside Beltline Trail has proven to be a huge success with new businesses and homes popping up and with millions of people coming to it every year. Will people continue to support the project despite the money it takes and despite the gentrification it may cause in some areas? Would such an innovative urban design project such as this one be worth the gentrification it may cause? In my opinion, it is up to the people of the neighborhoods of Atlanta to speak up and make sure their voices are heard by their government and by the Beltline.
One problem I had when I explored the partially developed Eastside Trail was how it was extremely difficult to access. I had a hard time finding the trail itself, and the public parking I was forced to pay for was a long distance from the trail’s entrance. This trail, while significantly less developed than the one I covered in my first Built Environment Description, was nearly impossible to find access to. The images above show some of my classmates finding difficulty in hiking up what appeared to be a rain outlet in order to get to the trail. The stone pillar on the left of the first image was the beginning of the bridge in my 5th artifact. I think it will be interesting to see what decisions the Beltline makes regarding entryways and access points.
The above pictures show a beautiful old bridge that was the beginning of my hike down the Southside Trail. The bridge has its own set of graffiti art, and its past is unknown to all passerby. It once served as the sturdy bridge for a very important railroad circling Atlanta: the beltline corridor. With the plans in place to establish public transit on the Beltline, I wondered if historic bridges such as this one would need to be replaced to fit a walking trail along with light rail.
One of the most politically and economically appealing aspects of the Beltline project is its urban reuse and renewal. The images above show how the historic, circular railway that the Beltline follows still exists today in this section. Some parts of the rail were more exposed; other parts were nearly impossible to see under the kudzu and various weeds. As someone who loves historical sites, this part of my built environment expeditions was one of my favorites.
As my hike continued, I notice several humungous pieces of untouched infrastructure. Power lines and utility poles ran everywhere, along with a random, untouched slab of concrete in the first image. The spaces in between all of these objects consisted of incredible amounts of kudzu. As someone observing the space with the idea of the Beltline in mind, I could not help but wonder how these spaces would be used. I also wondered just how much money it would take to replenish an area such as this one into a culturally significant trail.
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The above sounds and visuals help better capture the overgrowth of the Southside Beltline Trail. On the Beltline’s website, this trail is considered an “interim hiking trail”, which I suppose with a broad definition, is accurate. The leaves crunching beneath our feet, the constant grabbing of thorns and weeds at our ankles and pants, the incessant biting of insects: this walk was not a leisurely one like the walks that may be taken on the developed parts of the Beltline. The politics behind the Beltline project are largely to blame for the slow process of its construction. A huge project like this one obviously needs a great amount of funds to clear out an overgrown space such as the one observed here.
The Southside Beltline Trail, which has yet to be developed on any level, was a fascinating sight to see. Kudzu and weeds alike surround the entire area. Despite the vast overgrowth that exists, a trail was clearly engrained in the soil from numerous adventurers’ feet. The trail was not easy to walk due to the intense plant life growing over it and around it, however this definitely added to the experience. Hikers beware: pants are necessary to travel this path. Thorns and insects thrive in this environment, as many of my classmates experienced. The railroad itself is barely visible under the massive growth in this area, which contrasts greatly from the mostly developed parts of the Beltline Trail. The potential for this site is unimaginable, yet very possible. To think that the completed Eastside Beltline Trail came from a site much like this one is nothing less than incredible.