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New PATH trail expands access, options for Emory commuters

The final section of the South Peachtree Creek Trail is now open, linking Emory’s Clairmont Campus with Medlock Park, Mason Mill Park and nearby neighborhoods. From there, pedestrians and cyclists can continue along traffic-restricted Starvine Way onto Emory’s main campus. Emory Photo/Video

The South Peachtree Creek Emory Connection Trail, the final section of a pedestrian and bike path that links Emory’s Clairmont Campus with a scenic, off-road trail system and nearby neighborhoods, officially opened Friday, Oct. 19.

A ceremony to celebrate the completed trail, developed by Atlanta’s PATH Foundation in partnership with DeKalb County, drew an enthusiastic crowd of nearly 100 supporters, many of whom arrived on bicycle or foot, walking dogs and pushing baby carriages.

About a quarter-mile long, the new spur winds past Clairmont Lake before rising through quiet woodlands just northeast of Emory’s Clairmont Campus along a wide concrete pathway that gradually transitions into a raised wooden boardwalk.

The new section is the capstone project in the PATH Foundation’s South Peachtree Creek Trail, a multi-phase development that connects Medlock Park, Mason Mill Park, the historic Decatur Waterworks, several residential neighborhoods, and points beyond as it meanders toward North Druid Hills Road.

Earlier this year, Emory celebrated the opening of the PATH at Emory, a 12-foot-wide section of trail that borders the Clairmont campus before following a pedestrian tunnel under busy Clairmont Road, where it connects with the South Peachtree Creek Trail system.

With the completion of the final trail section, Emory bicyclists and pedestrians have access to a safer route to campus that bypasses busy streets and intersections.

The new section of trail is part of a larger vision for the PATH Foundation, an Atlanta non-profit that has built a network of trails throughout metro Atlanta, and one that has been identified as one of the most important commuter trails that PATH has developed to date, says Ed McBrayer, executive director of the PATH Foundation.

During remarks at Friday’s ceremony, McBrayer acknowledged the hard work that went into creating the critical, connecting spur, which included cooperation between the PATH Foundation, DeKalb County, local political leaders and Clairmont Place, a residential senior community that owned the property where the trail now lies.

Kathie Gannon, District 6 DeKalb County Commissioner, noted that by increasing connectivity with the new trail, Atlanta is “growing a significant means of alternative transportation” and helping people “see how important trails are to quality of life and economic development.” 

Emory advantages

Beyond offering safety and convenience to campus commuters, the completed trail link serves Emory’s 2025 Sustainability Vision, which supports enhanced opportunities for safe biking and walking on campus and connection to surrounding trail networks, says Ciannat Howett, Emory’s director of sustainability initiatives.

Howett, who joined supporters following the ceremony for a walk along the trail, expressed excitement about “what this can mean for enriching our student experience and connecting more closely to the Atlanta community.”

With the new spur, bicyclists, pedestrians and joggers alike can now follow the trail to the gates of the Clairmont Campus and continue along traffic-restricted Starvine Way onto Emory’s main campus.

“When we built a trail segment into the Clairmont campus, we knew PATH was constructing a trail connecting to the larger network with access to Mason Mill and Medlock parks through a beautiful forested area, which invites an opportunity for reflection and a place to connect with nature,” Howett says.

That opportunity isn’t lost on Emory alumnus Ted Daniel 77C, who attended Friday’s ceremony on his bicycle. “I’m so happy, you wouldn’t believe it,” said Daniel, grinning. “I commute on this path all the time to teach bridge classes and have been advocating for this for 15 years. I love what they’re doing.” 

For David and Carol Spenno, who also turned out on bicycles to take a spin on the new trail, the pathway offers opportunities both recreational and practical. “My barber is at the end of North Druid Hills Road, which will now be easy to reach on my bike,” said David Spenno 93C, who lives nearby. “It’s a great addition.”

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