Bike and pedestrian projects such as Path 400, Atlanta BeltLine, and the Silver Comet Trail have all done a lot to connect disparate parts of the city, and another local organization is now seeking to improve upon and add to those paths. The Blue Heron Nature Preserve is an unassuming stretch of land just off Roswell Road in Buckhead and was recently awarded a $150,000 Park Pride Legacy Grant towards the Preserve’s plans to develop a new path, the Blueway Trail.
The trail earns its name due to running alongside creeks that flow throughout the property. Park Pride’s grant will provide much of the funding that’s required to begin developing and expanding the existing trails, some of which will require navigating across streets and creeks or bringing up to ADA standards. While the grant accounts for a large portion of the funds that are needed to get things started, the Preserve has set a larger fundraising goal of $600,000 to bring the Blueway project to completion. This plan is an ambitious one, and has been in the making for more than five years for the crew at Blue Heron.
Executive Director Kevin McCauley has an enthusiasm for this project that’s infectious. He has been involved with the Preserve for the past 13 years in varying capacities, and was promoted to his current role on Jan. 1 of this year.
Initially he met the founder, a teacher named Nancy Jones, through his children’s school. McCauley started volunteering at Blue Heron, and gradually began taking a more active role in developing the Preserve with ideas like the very popular community garden.
“It has been a great thing for the Preserve and for the neighborhood,” McCauley said, noting that many of the neighbors live in condominiums and apartments with limited access to nature in the community.
There are also other related businesses that call Blue Heron home, including the Atlanta Audubon Society and the recently founded Amphibian Foundation. “This idea of connecting, in our mind, is a way of connecting Blue Heron and these wonderful organizations to a larger community, and in a way that they can get here without having to drive.”
The Preserve exists in a part of town where green space is increasingly hard to come by. Nancy Jones went head to head with development companies back in 2000 and succeeded in halting the destruction of the property, a virtually unheard of feet in the area. Initially, the space was a mere seven acres, but throughout the years the Preserve has expanded and grown, and now spans a winding 30 acres.
McCauley hopes that the development of the Blueway Path will serve the city’s alternative transportation movement as well as encourage healthy lifestyle choices for residents. The award from Park Pride is a huge boost to the beginning of the project, but there are sure to be many more steps before it is completed. “We are taking it in small bites,” said McCauley.
To keep up with progress of the Blueway Trail initiative and find out about volunteering or programs at the Blue Heron Nature Preserve, visit bhnp.org.