Atlanta Beltline Tour Group

Atlanta Beltline Tour Group

June 11, 2022, 9:00AM

 This Week's Tour...

...met at 9:00AM Saturday on the Beltline Eastside Trail near Parish (R.I.P...soon to reopen as "Painted Park"!). We walked for 1 1/2 hours, covering 1 mile of the Beltline, ending at Ponce City Market.

"The Tourists"...
...shouting out to to TWO future docents, a visiting Chicagoan and the rest of our intrepid, early Saturday crew!


Thanks for a great tour!

Map of the week...
...Atlanta's railroads in 1887!

We talked about the founding of Atlanta in 1837 and the growth of the railroads to Chattanooga, Augusta, and LaGrange up to 1868 when Atlanta became the state capital. The Atlanta Beltline Eastside Trail follows a railroad developed after 1868, Southern RR that eventually linked Atlanta to Charlotte.


Tree of the week...
...singling out one of the hundreds of specimens from the dozens of collections along the arboretum.

As we walked under the Freedom Parkway overpass and into the "Frederick Law Olmstead"-themed section of the arboretum, among the species of trees planted here due to their large, upright, stately growth is the Swamp White Oak. True to its name, "...the swamp white oak typically grows on hydromorphic soils. It is not found where flooding is permanent, although it is usually found in broad stream valleys, low-lying fields, and the margins of lakes, ponds, or sloughs."


Swamp white oak 

"Stump" of the week...
...featuring a question raised during the tour that Jeff couldn't answer.

Q: What's that plant?

A: Other than "really interesting", the plant we spied growing in deep shade under the sassafras and box elders trees appears to be a "Lords and Ladies" plant. Also, just really odd looking!


Lords and Ladies

April 9, 2022, 9:00AM

This Week's Tour...

...met at 9:00AM Saturday on the Beltline Eastside Trail near Parish (R.I.P...soon to reopen as "Painted Park"!). We walked for 1 1/2 hours, covering 1 mile of the Beltline, ending at Ponce City Market.

"The Tourists"...
...shouting out to to future docents and hardy Atlantans that braved our first ever tour HAILSTORM! Thank goodness for the Two Urban Licks dock overhang across from 3 tree hill!


Thanks for a great tour!

Map of the week...
...Atlanta's 1904 expansion!

In the map below, I outlined the 822 acre city expansion in red, the portion of the Eastside Trail we walked in yellow, and circled a bit of naming history in red...the southeast railroad section nicknamed the "Belt Line", a name that long predates Ryan Gravel's 1999 master thesis and the pedestrian corridor as we know it today!   


Tree of the week...
...singling out one of the hundreds of specimens from the dozens of collections along the arboretum.

One of the species comprising the large hardwood themed section of the Eastside Trail is the mighty white oak! Long lived (up to 500 years and counting!) and "supportive"! From NYT article "Why You Should Plant Oaks": "Oaks support more life-forms than any other North American tree genus, providing food, protection or both for birds to bears, as well as countless insects and spiders, among the enormous diversity of species." 

You grow, white oak! 


White oak 
(Quercus alba)  

"Stump" of the week...
...featuring a question raised during the tour that Jeff couldn't answer.

Q: There were 2 [main] passenger rail station in Atlanta, Union and Terminal, right?

A: Yup...and Jeff mixed up his stories!!! While both passenger terminals were razed around the same time (1971-1972), and the loss of both fueled the Atlanta preservation movement that helped preserve the Fabulous Fox Theater in 1974, the beautiful Corinthian column along the trail is an homage to the architecture of Union Station.

Terminal Station does have a connection to the Eastside Trail and connections to today; it served Southern Railway and Atlanta & West Point, both former railroads on the Beltline. There's also that statue of Samuel Spencer, first president of Southern Railway; it survived the demolition of Terminal Station and moved to Norfolk Southern Peachtree HQ, but did not make the move to the new NS HQ. History and its relevance to modern life can be difficult to contextualize.  

Terminal Station, 1905-1972
Union Station (3rd interation), 1930-1971

March 12, 2022

      This Week's Tour...

...met at 9:00AM Saturday on the Beltline Eastside Trail near Parish (R.I.P...soon to reopen as "Painted Park"!). We walked for 1 1/2 hours, covering 1 mile of the Beltline, ending at Ponce City Market.

"The Tourists"...
...shouting out to to the one person brave enough to take on the Eastside trail in 30 deg with snow flurries! Dan The Man! (and soon to be Trees Atlanta Docent...possibly joining me in giving Eastside Arboretum Tours!)


Thanks for a great tour!

Map of the week...
...of the Beltline Eastside Trail's first railroad! From ATL RAIL:

"The first segment of Atlanta’s belt line system was completed in 1873 by the Atlanta & Richmond Air-Line Railway as part of a main line from Charlotte to Atlanta. By 1877, the company was in receivership, but was purchased and its name changed to the Atlanta & Charlotte Air-Line. In 1881, the line was permanently leased to the Richmond & Danville Railroad. In 1894, both the Richmond & Danville and the Atlanta & Charlotte, were reorganized out of receivership into a new company: the Southern Railway. This rail line subsequently became known as the Southern Railway Belt."


Thanks, ATL RAIL!!

Tree of the week...
...singling out one of the hundreds of specimens from the dozens of collections along the arboretum.

In honor of their beautiful display of early spring flowers, this month's "tree" is actually part of the genus Rhododendron; our beautiful native azalea collection on the "Freedom Parkway" spur. Definitely check them out ASAP. Here's one example of over 14 varieties of native azaleas that are native to Georgia; the piedmont azalea.


Piedmont azalea 
(Rhododendron canescens).  

"Stump" of the week...
...featuring a question raised during the tour that Jeff couldn't answer.

Q: What do Trees Atlanta docents do?

A: From the Trees Atlanta website, the docent "program trains volunteers to become a volunteer docent for Trees Atlanta’s walking tours of trees or prepare to speak to groups about Trees Atlanta’s mission and projects." But it's even more than that; simply put, docents help connect Trees Atlanta's mission with the larger Atlanta community. Enthusiasm! Education! Involvement! 


Who dat docent?

February 12, 2022

    This Week's Tour...

...met at 9:00AM Saturday on the Beltline Eastside Trail near Parish (R.I.P...soon to reopen as "Painted Park"!). We walked for 1 1/2 hours, covering 1 mile of the Beltline, ending at Ponce City Market.

"The Tourists"...
...shouting out to this week's tourists, another good-sized group braved the cold, including brand new Atlantans as well as Morningside neighbors!


Thanks for a great tour!

Map of the week...
...1960's era I-485 route proposed to connect downtown with (what is now) SR 400 to the north and Stone Mountain to the east. The project was officially shutdown in 1975 by then Governor Busbee, but not before hundreds of homes were acquired and demolished thru the eminent domain process. 

To many, freeway projects can have many negative impacts (displaced locals, divided communities, increased traffic/pollution), but I feel that this story has a silver lining. The end result of the cancelled project included: The formation of neighborhood civic groups that continue to provide feedback and guidance to the Atlanta City Council and the creation of several new parks: 

4) Freedom Park
3) John Howell Park
2) Sidney Marcus Park
1) Morningside Nature Preserve*

* Starting in 1999, land that had been acquired from GDOT by a developer, through "hard work of the neighborhood, and support from the City of Atlanta, the Wildwood Urban Forest was saved from development." Today, it continues to educate and delight as the Morningside Nature Preserve!


Thanks, Wikipedia!!

Tree of the week...
...singling out one of the hundreds of specimens from the dozens of collections along the arboretum.

In this case, the entire genus "Magnolia"! Many of us are familiar with the grand, native, evergreen Magnolia grandiflora or "Southern Magnolia", but planted in a gorgeous, flowering alley running north along the Beltline from Ponce City market to about Greenwood St are several showy, non-native but non-invasive, species. Definitely check them out now thru March! 


Magnolia virginiana ... M. stellata  ... M. liliiflora  

"Stump" of the week...
...featuring a question raised during the tour that Jeff couldn't answer.

Q: What is an acre?

A: When we talked about the part of the Beltline Corridor adjacent to the Eastside Trail that is planted with native grasses and flowers, I mentioned that Trees Atlanta had planted 8 1/2 acres with more than 100,000 plants! The next question...what is an acre? Well, I tried to explain in relatable terms: "I'm from Virginia Highland...my house is on an intown lot that is about 1/5 of an acre. So 5 of those is an acre...and 42 1/2 of my houses would be 8 1/2 acres! 

Now, according to Wikipedia, the official definition of one acre is: " ...the area of one chain by one furlong (66 by 660 feet), which is exactly equal to 10 square chains, 1⁄640 of a square mile, 4,840 square yards, or 43,560 square feet, and approximately 4,047 m2, or about 40% of a hectare."

I left my furlong at home, so imma stick with 8 1/2 acres = "42 1/2 houses!"


180 ft x 50 ft = 1/5 acre!

January 8, 2022

This Week's Tour...

...met at 9:00AM Saturday on the Beltline Eastside Trail near Parish (R.I.P...soon to reopen as "Painted Park"!). We walked for 1 1/2 hours, covering 1 mile of the Beltline, ending at Ponce City Market.

"The Tourists"...
...shouting out to this week's tourists, another good sized group braved the cold, including a new Druid Hills resident and visitors from Minnesota!


Thanks for a great tour!

Map of the week...
...is actually a "video of the week"; Georgia Audubon's wildlife camera compilation of fauna along the Beltline and the 80 acres of Trees Atlanta Arboretum. What's cuter than a raccoon? TWO raccoons!


Thanks for all the awesome work, 

Tree of the week...
...singling out one of the hundreds of specimens from the dozens of collections along the arboretum.

We spoke a little on this bright and chilly winter morning about some of the spectacular foliage and blooms you can see if you come back to visit the Trees Atlanta Arboretum in the spring. One of my favs is the Fringe Tree, planted in the Arboretum "neighborhood" themed "Peace", as it connects the The King Center and Jimmy Carter Library and Museum and the Nobel Peace Prize housed in each.

Upon close inspection, you may notice there are non-invasive Chinese varieties planted in the corridor along with the native varieties, providing a diverse and extended blooming season without being invasive and having the risk of crowding out native species.

From Trees Atlanta Hometown Favorites: "White Fringe Tree is a showy flowering native that takes on a shrub-like form, capable of reaching heights of 25′. This Eastern US native is renowned for it’s white fringe-like creamy white flowers, which densely cover the tree deep into Spring, prior to leaf emergence. Traditionally used as a specimen or pollinator tree in garden settings, its tolerance for air pollution allows for its use in urban plantings. However, its preference for decent soil and moisture should not be ignored. Fringe tree is sexed and in the right conditions, females can produce small olive-like fruits that are enjoyed by numerous bird species."


Chionanthus virginicus  
Fringe Tree

"Stump" of the week...
...featuring a question raised during the tour that Jeff couldn't answer.

Q: How can I tell different oak species apart...Part II? Swamp Chestnut vs. Chinquapin

A: These 2 oak species are on the Beltline Eastside Trail, both as live plantings and as chrome sculptures in David Landis' art installation just across North Avenue from PCM Kroger. As you can see, both are white oaks with similar serrated leaf lobes, acorns, and bark. Check out the excellent linked comparison below, but I'm going to keep 2 things in mind: Chinquapin leaf lobes are angled forward and Swamp Chestnut leaves have a velvety underside.


Swamp Chestnut (left) vs. Chinquapin (right)
Thanks, bplant.org

December 18, 2021

This Week's Tour...

...met at 9:00AM Saturday on the Beltline Eastside Trail near Parish (R.I.P...soon to reopen as "Painted Park"!). We walked for 1 1/2 hours, covering 1 mile of the Beltline, ending at Ponce City Market.

"The Tourists"...
...shouting out to this week's tourists, another good sized group braved the rainy forecast, including Trees Atlanta volunteers and docents!


Thanks for a great tour!

Map of the week...
...is the "Georgia Fall Line". The change in elevation that it indicates is significant in several ways;  ships can navigate upstream to it and as the river flows downstream, the drop in height gives the water potential energy used to power industrial plants, making it the ideal location for 2 former Georgia State Capitals, Augusta and Milledgeville (sorry Louisville...you are located a little south of this).

From the New Georgia Encyclopedia:  "The fall line is a geological boundary, about twenty miles wide, running northeast across Georgia from Columbus to Augusta. It is a gently sloping region that rapidly loses elevation from the north to the south, thereby creating a series of waterfalls. During the Mesozoic Era (251-65.5 million years ago), the fall line was the shoreline of the Atlantic Ocean; today it separates Upper Coastal Plain sedimentary rocks to the south from Piedmont crystalline rocks to the north. The fall line’s geology is also notable for its impact on early transportation in Georgia and consequently on the state’s commercial and urban development"



Thanks for the pic, 

Tree of the week...
...singling out one of the hundreds of specimens from the dozens of collections along the arboretum.

This week is a repeat shout out to my dad's favorite tree, the mighty beech, which this month began it's transition from summer green to wintery copper. Because of a process called "marcescence", or the retention of dead plant material, these amazing native trees retain their dead leaves throughout the winter, sheltering birds as well as their own tender spring shoots. 

In the spring, beeches will experience "abscission", or the shedding of dead plant material, that most trees went thru the previous autumn, allowing the dead leaves to finally fall, decay around the base of the tree, and form humus, the organic matter in soil so vital to the tree for nutrition and water retention.



Fagus grandifolia  
American Beech


"Stump" of the week...

...featuring a question raised during the tour that Jeff couldn't answer.

Q: How can I tell different oak species apart?

A: The short answer is the same as getting to Carnegie Hall..."practice"! In all seriousness, other than telling the 2 oak families apart - white oaks have rounded lobes while red oaks have pointier lobes - it can be tough. On top of that, our knowledgeable docent-in-training pointed out that leaves can different on different parts of the trees. 

Here is a great posing in Forestry Forum comparing "Northern Red Oak" with "Scarlett Oak", both differences between the species as well as differences between their lower/shade leaves and upper/sun leaves! 


Scarlet oak acorns are usually about 1" long, 
with a bowl-shaped cap that encloses 
about half of the acorn