Commuters on Interstate 85 might not realize it, but work is underway beneath the mammoth expressway to build a multiuse trail segment that project leaders call crucial for regional connectivity not involving streets or highways.

Like Atlanta BeltLine Inc. and the PATH Foundation, local nonprofit South Fork Conservancy has been busy in recent years converting underused land into public trails and greenspaces near the banks of Peachtree Creek’s South Fork, a few blocks from Lindbergh.

They’ve completed about five miles so far, attracting headlines last year with the installation of the 175-foot, $2.8-million Confluence Bridge spanning the creek off Piedmont Road near I-85.

How the Creek Walk Connector will link with PATH400, which streams southward from the heart of Buckhead. The BeltLine's Northeast Trail corridor is just left of this image, near Lindbergh. Courtesy of South Fork Conservancy

The conservancy’s newest project, a collaboration with PATH called the Creek Walk Connector, will stem off that huge bridge, slink under I-85, and cut through a scenic meadow before ending at Lindbergh Drive, a connection to the existing Cheshire Farm Trail.

To the south, the Creek Walk Connector will serve as a direct route to Buckhead’s PATH400, which is planned to link with the BeltLine’s Northeast Trail in coming years.

So this general area, in other words, could be the Spaghetti Junction of multiuse trail systems if each agency’s plans come to fruition.

“Breaking ground on [the Creek Walk Connector] project is the realization of years of planning and effort,” Kimberly Estep, South Fork Conservancy’s executive director, said in a prepared statement.

Construction on the Creek Walk Connector this month under Interstate 85. Courtesy of South Fork Conservancy

A $1-million grant from the Georgia Outdoor Stewardship Association is funding the project. The 12-foot-wide trail is expected be 1,600-feet long, with 50,000 square feet of restored creekside habitat and a new pocket park with benches and bike racks beside it.

The intent is to “provide communities along the creek, as well [as] visitors, expanded opportunities to slow down and experience nature in the city,” per the conservancy.

Like the new bridge, all aspects of the trail will be ADA-accessible. 

Estep tells Urbanize Atlanta the Creek Walk Connector will be finished and opened by the end of October.

The new $2.8 million Confluence Bridge, as shown in a rendering before its installation last May. Piedmont Road is in the middle distance at right. Courtesy of South Fork Conservancy

Long-term plans call for a connection to PATH’s Peachtree Greek Greenway, just to the north. That system debuted its 1.3-mile initial segment in Brookhaven in December 2019, with plans to one day wend up to Chamblee and Doraville.  

watermark A couple of miles north of the new trail project, the PATH Foundation opened the first 1.3-mile leg of the Peachtree Creek Greenway in Brookhaven in 2019. Josh Green/Urbanize Atlanta

• BeltLine teams with PATH to speed construction of Northwest Trail (Urbanize Atlanta)