Ponce City Halloween


Ponce City Market, perhaps the Beltline’s most famous and biggest attraction, was in a festive spirit last week. Fake cobwebs and other iconic Halloween decorations dotted the shopping center. Next to several large tables on the second floor was this display featuring several pumpkins, skeletons, cobwebbed trees, and more.

A Full Park


This picture may seem rather unremarkable, but it stuck out to me. This was my third trip to the Beltline, a sunny Saturday afternoon. My first two trips took place on a rainy Sunday evening and the middle of a Thursday. Thus every other time that I had passed this clearing, I saw no one else. Saturday, however, it was full. A symphony of chatter filled the air, and kids were running everywhere. It truly showed off the desirability of the Beltline.

The Photo Gallery

Not long after you enter the Eastside Beltline, the entrance across from Krog Street Market, a long length of fence has a gallery of photos displayed. The gallery includes collections of several different themes, from sunbathers on a Greek beach to survivors of African warlords to children playing sports in developing countries. It is a testament to the Beltline’s ability of inclusiveness in regards to medium.

The above video records several of the pictures.

Beltline Arboretum Marker


The Beltline line contains yet another a unique exhibit: an arboretum. The Beltline plans to create the longest arboretum in the world at 22 miles. Together, the Beltline and Trees Atlanta plan to restore the ecology surrounding the entirety of the trail. Currently, the Eastside Trail encompasses more than 190,000 individual plans across 43 varieties of wildflower and grass species. The group intends to plant hundreds of trees throughout the upcoming Westside Trail. This feature of the Beltline, beyond the wonderful aesthetic, has opened educational opportunities to learn about ecology, conduct research, and work on restoration projects, while offering a history of Atlanta’s floral history.

Each different species of tree has a marker in front of providing details about (pictured above). As seen in the picture, the marker identifies the tree ( a China Snow) with its common and scientific name, names who “donated” the tree (Atlanta Beltline and Atlanta Trees), and denotes where the tree originates from (China, Japan, Korea).

For more info, go to http://beltline.org/programs/atlanta-beltline-arboretum/

Politics and the Beltline

Quite simply, virtually every part of the Beltline derives from politics. This reality should be apparent, yet it takes some study to recognize the cruciality of the political realm truly. When walking along the Beltline, you see plenty of apartments, businesses, art pieces, skyline views, nature, the trail itself, and so. None of these objects appear political. However, the entire environment that a Beltline visitor is walking completely leans on politics. The land that the Beltline is built on had to be purchased by the government using taxpayer money. The Beltline had to use more taxpayer money to build the physical trail itself. The businesses that feed off of the Beltline required permits and local approvals to operate, and same for the apartments. Some of those apartments and houses are partly funded by more taxpayer dollars to allow homeowners to resist rising property values. Nearly every building that you can see from the Beltline is paying higher taxes as part of the financing plan to raise more revenue to continue the Beltline’s construction. Even the conception of the idea stemmed from public funding. Ryan Gravel conceived the project as a thesis while attending Georgia Tech, a public university.

In short, to describe the political influence of the Beltline’s built environment is the same as describing the Beltline’s political environment. The Beltline as a physical entity takes the form of a wide path that stretches for miles and will one day wrap around the entirety of Atlanta, offering a new and more inclusive connective transportation system that will combine streetcars, MARTA, pedestrians, and bicycles. Already, stores and residence complexes line the sides of the path, with a constant smattering of sculptures and murals. The infrastructure includes bridges and tunnels and carries walkers, cyclers, runners, joggers, shoppers, families, and so many groups. All of this is politics. Every single facet of this built environment would not exist without politics.

And the future constitutes no difference. A week from today, voters will not just choose between Trump and Clinton (or Johnson or Stein or McMullin), nor just their Senators and Congressmen, nor just their board of education of members, residents of Atlanta will have the vote to choose whether to increase a city sales tax to fund Beltline expansion. Even now, forces like city planners, the Beltline organization, and grassroots activist are locked in debates over where to expand, how to solve unexpected problems, how to raise more money.

The past, present, and future of the Beltline was, is, and will be politics. If I had to write this description in on sentence, it would be: one word sums up entirely seems what elements of the Beltline’s built environment have been affected by political influences, and that word is everything.

The Beltline: Atlanta’s Newest Cultural Phenomenon.


Before and After

Before and After (Credit: Atlanta Beltline Organization, http://beltline.org/2015/04/09/the-atlanta-beltline-then-and-now/)

Just a few years ago, the Beltline possessed decidedly zero culture. Seriously, it was a jumble of abandoned railroads, empty parking lots, and deteriorating fields. Fortunately, to quote our most recent Nobel Laureate, “The times they are a-changin’.” In a matter of years, the Beltline has been transformed into a cultural epicenter for Atlanta.


As I documented in my previous description, the Beltline has taken empty space and tunnels and replaced them with a conglomerate of modern art, from statues to murals. Still, the culture of the Beltline expands so far beyond this.


An outdoor concert set up on the Beltline (Credit: Atlanta Insider Blog, http://www.atlanta.net/Blog/9-Things-to-Do-on-the-Atlanta-BeltLine/)

The Beltline has actually emerged as a popular spot for performance. The trail features several dozen performances every year, and, along with art pieces, the number continues to grow constantly. According to the Beltline’s website, the amount of art and performances increased from 30% in just one year from 2010 to 2011. On October 1 this year, the Beltline held a day of music event that included African dance and ragtime.


A picture of the Lantern Parade (Credit: Atlanta Beltline Organization, http://www2.atlanta.net/memberlink.asp?gotoPage=art.beltline.org/lantern-parade/)

And the path has developed its own traditions, namely the Lantern Parade. The September event had over 60,000 participants this year parading down the Beltline with many homemade lanterns.

Nevertheless, perhaps the most fantastic element of the Beltline’s culture comes from its everyday existence. Across the world, cities hold various special events that add to the culture of the town, yet a city is perhaps best defined culturally in what it has every day, like the Eiffel Tower or Statue of Liberty. Atlanta, and its penchant for tearing down and rebuilding, has long struggled in this regard. But the Beltline has taken the lead in changing this aspect of the city. For one, the trail has taken the city’s love of replacement and change and fed on it. The organization rotates exhibits annually. While the Beltline always has the same feel of unity and museum, it never stays the same, like Atlanta.

Similar to the Beltline, the Bloomingdale Trail in Chicago (Credit: Streetsblog Chicago, http://chi.streetsblog.org/2015/12/28/2015-was-a-great-year-for-chicago-transportation-and-public-spaces/)


Being new, the Beltline still has to develop a culture truly, yet it sets forth a culture for the entire city to aspire to. The rest of the county knows this city as a postcard for sprawl, for urban and suburban desolation and highway frenzy. Now, Atlanta is becoming a new kind of model, one for a future that permits cities, especially American cities, to revitalize and adapt, to become walker-friendly and less car dependent, and merge urban and natural environments. The culture of Beltline is far larger than simply the trail being built because it has spread everywhere in this city and across the country. To quote Mr. Dylan once more: “Beauty walks a razor’s edge/Someday I’ll make it mine.”



Several artworks have signs like this one, that give information on the piece and the artist. The top of the sign lists the artist’s name, then the name of the piece, and then a paragraph written by the artist that explains the piece. It adds to the art museum effect of the Beltline by offering information on the art.

Another Bench


We had a short discussion of benches when we looked at my first collage of artifacts, so naturally, I was on the lookout for another one. This one resembles something out of the Flintstones. It has curvy wood separated by three points by large stone circles. Going back to our classroom discussion, we talked about how benches are often made thinner to prevent homeless people from sleeping on them. For this bench, it is definitely slim, and the curves would prevent someone sleeping even more. As usual, I hope that this is simply an artistic choice.

Lantern Parade

This video offers a drone’s eye view of the Atlanta Lantern Parade that has become a tradition along the Beltline. The parade involves people crafting lanterns and marching them down the trail. Anyone can participate, and involvement has swelled to tens of thousands of people in just a few years. Even more watch. This video gives a brief tour of the parade and the Beltline, and boasts the area’s beauty.

Atlanta Union Station: Before and After


As most know, the Beltline is focused on the unused railroads that led to the city’s construction. Unfortunately, few know about the beauty destroyed when the rail stations were demolished. Atlanta’s main central depot, Atlanta Union Station, was built in 1853, razed by Union forces during the Civil War in 1864, rebuilt in 1870, then relocated in 1930. Passenger rail activity ended in 1971, and the city finally bulldozed the station in 1972. Pictured above, one can see the beautiful 1930 station (picture taken 1946). Below, one can see what it is today: a parking lot.