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.
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.
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.
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/
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.