Giant quarry is centerpiece for new park on Atlanta Beltline

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ATLANTA - Downtown Atlanta can be a noisy place most hours of the day with sirens, car horns and construction. But just a few blocks away from the downtown bustle sits a very quiet place -- the Bellwood Quarry is on approximately 40 acres of land near North Marietta Street in northwest Atlanta. It boasts spectacular scenery with walls of jagged granite stretching up to 450 feet high. At the bottom is clear, green water as deep as 30 feet. Deer, foxes and hawks make the granite home, for now.

Atlanta city officials say the quarry was active for most of the last century. The last mining company to operate there was Vulcan Materials Company. It mined gravel that was used to make roads and buildings. Records show the city bought the quarry and nearly 100 acres around it in June 2006. The quarry now is the property of Atlanta's Watershed Management Department. It plans to use it for a new reservoir that will give the city a 30-day water supply.

LINK: City of Atlanta Completes Purchase Of Quarry LINK: www.Beltline.org

"This is a backup supply for the city," said Watershed manager Ben Jacob. "We'll use this in periods when there's some problem with the river, or to supplement the supply during the drought. We'll also use this to reduce the city of Atlanta's dependence on Lake Lanier."

Jacob said it will take 2.4 billion gallons of water to fill the quarry to 300 feet deep in some places. It should take several months for that to happen.

Quarry To Be Centerpiece Of Atlanta Beltline Park

The city then plans to bore a 8,000-foot tunnel from the quarry to the Hemphill Water Treatment Plant on 17th Street.

Jacob said the process could take several years to complete, depending on funding.

Jacob took Channel 2 Action News reporter Jovita Moore to the bottom of the quarry to show her the city's plans. He said the objective is to make it practical, while making it beautiful to serve as an amenity for the new Westside Park along the Atlanta Beltline.

The Atlanta Beltline is a 22-mile loop around the city on abandoned rail lines that will create and connect neighborhoods, parks, shops and restaurants. Construction is under way, but will take several years to complete.

Jacob explained that the city plans to keep the area around the reservoir and sell the rest to the Atlanta Beltline. Beltline officials then hope to buy other land around the area to create Westside Park.

"This will become a new world-class park for the city of Atlanta," said Atlanta Beltline communications director Ethan Davidson. "It's probably the greatest opportunity the city has had since perhaps Piedmont Park to have a magnificent greenspace in the middle of the city."

Atlanta Beltline officials said the park will have many similarities to Piedmont Park, except for its size. Westside Park will be about 100 acres larger.

"It's rare that a city has the opportunity to unveil or design an over 300-acre park in the 21st century," said Atlanta Beltline CEO Brian Leary. "It's almost unheard of."

Atlanta Beltline officials said final plans still are in the works for the park, but it could include stables, a bridle path for Atlanta police horses and a walking loop around the quarry.

Jacob said there will be a fence around the quarry, but it will blend in with the park. "The objective is to create the quarry reservoir as a visual amenity to the park. We do have to maintain the perimeter secure, but we have committed that we will allow various viewpoints and boardwalks around it to really showcase the special attributes."

Davidson said the quarry project is one of the best examples of the Atlanta Beltline's main goal, which is to re-purpose former places of industry all around the city.

"This is really going to create an amazing recreational space, not only for the people who live in Atlanta, but people who are coming to visit the city to see this park."