Hero of The BeltLine: Angel Poventud’s ongoing mission

By Han Vance

In a city built originally as a multi-directional train terminus, it is fitting that a typical day in his life begins and ends riding the rails. No matter the hour, Angel Poventud remains on-call for duty. A mere two hours after the call comes in he finds himself steering tons of steel to safety as a CSX freight train conductor.

Approximately 14 hours and many miles later, he is free.

After recovering from work or on those days his professional services are not needed, Poventud hears the call of duty to be of service to his adopted city. Poventud moved to Atlanta from Miami in 1998 amidst the post-Olympic wave of population boom. Always interested in transportation, before working on the railroad Angel was a baggage handler at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.

In 2004, a developer tore down Poventud ‘s residence near Piedmont Park to make way for condo construction. From that moment forward, Poventud vowed to get informed about the powers that be and projects around him. His civic interest raised, Poventud began to seek out meetings about the progress of the city. An organization called U.L.I., the Urban Land Institute, hosted a general information meeting about a project called the Atlanta BeltLine at Atlantic Station. Poventud attended and his love affair began.

The well-documented BeltLine project consists of 22-miles of old rail corridor encircling the city and connects 45 distinct neighborhoods via future trails, greenspace and transit. The BeltLine would get a boosted funding timeline if the regional T-SPLOST (Transportation Special Local Optional Sales Tax) is passed by voters throughout the ten-county region on July 31.

INtown spoke with Poventud about his involvement with the project at an art opening at Carroll Street Cafe’ in the Cabbagetown neighborhood.

Talk about your personal experience with the BeltLine project.

I came into the project from 60,000 feet in the air rather than being asked in, so my thinking has always been how is this going to benefit the city and how is it going to benefit the country. The establishment saw me as too much of a radical, but I was always physically on the BeltLine, so they couldn’t just ignore me. That’s just who I am; it isn’t conventional. I recently bought a house on the BeltLine in Adair Park.

What are your favorite elements of the project?

The connectivity. Our street grid isn’t very friendly – it’s for cars, but not pedestrians and bikes. The BeltLine will make the grid more friendly in an explorative way.

What are your frustrations with the project?

Lack of communication with the public. The real message is not the dog and pony shows for the delivery of the project. The message is the project itself. The process and the people are the story, not the ribbon cuttings. Those are just political events.

How has winning the Cox Conserves Hero award helped?

I won the award in 2010 as a volunteer for nonprofit Trees Atlanta and was able to give them that big check for $5,000, after planting trees all over the city for them for years. It gave me more regional recognition, so I have more of an audience to be an advocate for the causes I care about like the BeltLine.

Finally, let’s hear a list of your BeltLine activities, official or unofficial.

Clean ups, walking tours, bike tours, advocacy. Attending all the meetings. I’m an official member of the speakers’ bureau.

For more about the BeltLine, visit BeltLine.org.

Contributor Han Vance is an Atlanta-based writer and former regional transportation manager. His forthcoming California travel narrative memoir is Golden State Genius and his website is hanvance.com.

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