All posts by Jim Abbot

Beltline Streetcar, Second of Two Posts

In an earlier post, I considered the case against allowing MARTA to extend the Atlanta Streetcar along the Eastside Beltline. Now this week’s news from the AJC:

Atlanta will close Irwin Street/Lake Avenue between Krog Street and Auburn Avenue/Sampson Street from Monday through next Sunday to study how it affects traffic in the area. The city and MARTA will evaluate the affect on surrounding neighborhoods and businesses to assess the impact of closing the stretch of road permanently for the streetcar extension.

What might be a case for the proposal?

I suppose the argument has to be this: the gain for the city would be enough to offset any losses.

Supporters no doubt believe that this first step would lead to others, so that ultimately streetcars would run the entire loop. Prefer to walk on the Westside Beltline on any given day? Hop on the streetcar. Meeting someone in Buckhead for lunch? Hop on the streetcar.

That’s fewer cars on the road. Less pollution from gas-powered engines. Smaller parking lots.

Ryan Gravel, the man who had the inspiration for the Beltline, has some helpful thoughts on how light rail can be done right. His recommendations:

  1. Keep it free-flowing
  2. Make it grass track
  3. Build the future for everyone
  4. Put your political capital into Hulsey

Read more on his own blog.

Beltline Streetcar: One of Two Posts

I remember when I was told by someone—correctly or not, I don’t know—that a major Atlanta-based philanthropic institution was declining (at least initially) to invest in a proposal to turn this:

Into this:

“That’s totally and completely nuts,” I thought.

Now, all these years later, I will say up front that my first reaction to a proposal to put this:


Is to think: “That’s totally and completely nuts.”

First let me acknowledge these facts:

  • I am a tree enthusiast.
  • This is a blog about Inman Park’s trees and the work of IPNA’s Tree Watch Committee.
  • My involvement with the Atlanta Beltline Arboretum reaches as far back as hearing Trees Atlanta’s Greg Levine muse aloud, “The whole 22 miles of this proposed project should be one continuous arboretum”; participating as a stakeholder in the design of the arboretum; helping to complete a survey of the trees growing naturally along the route of the Beltline; weeding the meadows; and planting and caring for trees growing along the Eastside Beltline.

So I am not unbiased. I do like the trees and the meadows. I like nature. I do have a viscerally negative reaction to the idea of pouring concrete over what is now native grasses and trees. (According to a spokesperson for MARTA, the new transit line will affect about 150 trees, 111 being “trimmed back” and the rest replaced with species that have smaller root zones.) I find the Beltline experience of people being active in a semi-natural setting very appealing.

But let’s put aside my visceral reaction. Here are some questions I have about MARTA’s proposal to extend the line of the Atlanta Streetcar along the Eastside Beltline from Irwin Street to Ponce de Leon Avenue. No doubt there are already answers to these, but in any case:

  • Who will be riding the streetcar along the Beltline? Out-of-town tourists? Commuters? Atlantans curious enough to ride it at least once, just for novelty’s sake?
  • Why is it better for people to ride in an enclosed, air-conditioned streetcar between Irwin Street and Ponce de Leon Avenue than to walk, bike, scoot, take a pedicab, etc., as they are doing now?
  • The Beltline has been a spectacular success by almost every conceivable measure. How will the Atlanta Streetcar make the Beltline better? If you are walking along the trail, how is your experience affected by having a streetcar glide by on rails? How about if you’re dining somewhere along the Beltline?
  • How would MARTA respond to this cynical assertion: “The Atlanta Streetcar is a marketing gimmick for Atlanta’s hospitality industry. Why should it be allowed to piggyback on the success of the Atlanta Beltline?”
  • What happens to all the concrete, metal, etc., if and when the Atlanta Streetcar along the Beltline proves to be a bust?
  • Is this an instance of shutting the barn door when the horse has already bolted? Or trying to put the toothpaste back in the tube? (I can’t get my aphorisms straight!) In other words, starting with transit and then adding a walking/biking path and some nice landscaping is one thing that might have happened with the Beltline. But it didn’t happen that way. Now that we have the Beltline we have, what do we risk losing by altering it so substantially?

Next time, I’ll try to look more positively on what the Atlanta Streetcar can add to the Beltline experience.

Statewide Honor for Tree Watch

The Georgia Tree Council (formerly the Georgia Urban Forestry Council) has chosen to honor Inman Park Tree Watch with its 2022 Outstanding Civic Organization Grand Award.

CONGRATULATIONS to all the neighbors who have participated in the work of this IPNA committee since it was established. They include founding co-chairs of Tree Watch Richard Westrick and Nancy Morrison, the many original members of the committee, all the neighbors who have turned out whenever they could for our tree plantings and tree care projects, and for that matter, all the folks who volunteered their time to replant and care for our trees long before Tree Watch was established, reaching back to Joel Hurt himself!

It Doesn’t Get More Obvious Than This

Last summer, I wrote about bark inclusion. I have also written about co-dominant stems or double leaders on a tree.

So, yesterday I was walking northeast on the section of the Freedom Park Trail between North Highland Avenue and the Jimmy Carter Library & Museum/The Carter Center.

Years ago, we planted trees nearby, along what is now called John Lewis Freedom Parkway.

These are winged elms. “Winged” refers to the corky “wings” or ridges that can be found growing on opposite sides of the tree’s twigs and branches, particularly its younger branches:

(For this tree, by the way, the scientific name and the common name are a perfect match: Ulmus alata is literally “winged elm.” Contrast our water oak, Quercus nigra, which we should be calling “black oak,” I suppose. Except what we commonly call black oak has the botanical name Quercus velutina, literally “velvety oak,” referring to the fine hairs found on its buds and young leaves. What a nomenclatural mess!)

I saw that one of the winged elms along the parkway has split in two:

The culprit?


End of an Era, Beginning of an Era

When my family and I moved into Inman Park in 2000, just over two decades ago, the neighborhood was full of mature trees, primarily water oaks (Quercus nigra), which shaded our streets and yards.

Here are some photos taken from Google Maps of Waverly Way from 2007 and January 2022, looking east and west of our home at Waverly Way’s intersection with Hurt Street. Note the red arrow.

Waverly at Hurt, looking east, in 2007
in January 2022
Waverly at Hurt, looking west, in 2007
in January 2022

Recently the city had to take down the last of the roughly 80-year-old water oaks along Waverly Way. The crown of the tree was healthy, but its buttress roots could no longer be counted on to keep the tree standing through a high wind or ice storm.

How quickly things change!

And change again! Here are some blackgums (Nyssa sylvatica ‘Wildfire’) which the Pattersons agreed to have planted in tree wells along their Hurt Street sidewalk. They will reach 40-60 feet eventually. And the two white oaks (Quercus alba) that they planted in their front yard years ago (not pictured here) could grow as high at 80-100 feet.

Our next Inman Park tree planting will be Saturday, January 21. Let us know if your yard or sidewalk strip needs a tree!

Wonderful Work in the Woods

On the morning of Friday, June 10, a capable crew of Inman Park neighbors, together with some Trees Atlanta recruits, rallied in support of Springvale Park.

The goal was to remove invasive Japanese chaff flower and to thin out some of the saplings that are threatening to turn Springvale Park into a jungle.

Thanks go to Sandi and Kevin Curry, Karen Heim, Alan Hing, Nancy and Bob Morrison, Sam Prausnitz-Weinbaum, Cindy Weinbaum, Peipei Xiang, and Jim Abbot, as well as Trees Atlanta staffer Louie Lewis and his volunteers Myrtle Lewin, Jasen Johns, Grace, Nicole, and Christina.

Beech Update

A while back, I posted some photos of how my American beech (Fagus grandifolia) is getting along with recovery from the wound I inflicted upon it.

I had decided that there was risk of included bark developing between an already large branch and the trunk of my beech tree, so with considerable ambivalence, I removed the branch. That left a large wound on the tree, which I understood would result in some rot within the trunk, but then again, trees can be wonderfully adept at compartmentalizing decay.

Here’s an illustration of the barrier zone that a tree can construct, via internal alterations in the chemistry of its cells, to wall off infection from otherwise healthy wood inside the tree:

Source: In Defense of Plants

What I have been watching on the exterior of my beech is the slow growth of what’s initially called callus tissue and later, as the callus becomes tougher and stronger, woundwood. The hope is that this continuing growth of woundwood will ultimately seal off the interior of the tree from further exposure to organisms that cause decay.

As you can see, the tree is making good progress. I’d tell you that I’m really proud of it, but then I don’t want to encourage any vanity in my beech. It’s already the queen of the backyard, and the red maples, tulip poplars, and pecans all know it.