My BeltLine Sojourn of ’94


In his remarks at the BeltLine Eastside Trail dedication, Mayor Kasim Reed expressed mock surprise at not uncovering dead bodies while clearing the former rail corridor. For too many years it was that sort of urban wilderness, a scary place where only outlaws and the homeless would go. This I know from a sojourn down those tracks in the spring of 1994, No, I did not imagine that morning rails-to-trails redevelopment, a distinction belonging to Ryan Gravel. My selfish purpose had more to do with the thrill of exploring a forbidding locale, thereby offering further proof that a benign deity just might be protecting fools and children.

Only once had I seen those rails in use, when a locomotive and tanker crossed Monroe Drive into Piedmont Park. That would have been in 1989 or 1990. Clear Creek was still an open sewer crossing the park, which itself was not always safe to visit. None of this deterred me as I made my way down Kanuga Street, under the Virginia Avenue bridge and past a mural of a bloody hand. Slung around my neck was a fancy Minolta X700 camera.


Victorian Atlanta was fond of the day trip north to Ponce de Leon Springs, where an amusement park briefly flourished on the site of what now is the Sears building. Passing a row of derelict freight warehouses, I remember shopping there in a summer visit during the 1960’s. Oblivious to my presence, a rough looking couple scrambled over a loading bay and into shelter.


Negotiating rail bridges never made for foot traffic over Ponce de Leon Avenue, North Avenue and Ralph McGill Boulevard brought me close to the newly built Carter Presidential Library. Those who enjoy its many charms today would be shocked to see just how forgotten that part of Old Fourth Ward had become twenty years ago.


Arriving at Irwin Street gave me an option: return via the civilization of city sidewalks or retrace my path through the urban wilderness. It was an easy decision and one I would take again. The only moment of disquietude came within sight of Monroe Drive. While it was impossible to gauge intent, his gaze seemed to communicate hostility tempered by the realization that we were at a sort of border between our worlds.

About Cameron Adams

Cameron Adams is a photographer and author of the celebrated blogs, Atlanta Street Fashion and Atlanta Bicycle Chic. He finds that cycling lends unique perspective to the pursuit of fashion outliers. In their quest for making the southern capital a bike-friendlier city, the Atlanta Bicycle Coalition and Georgia Tech Bike Week have benefited from Adams’ time, talent and enthusiasm.

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