ATLANTA - Former Atlanta Braves slugger Mark Teixeira is working to clean up a polluted creek to create new homes and businesses on 400 acres in a blighted part of Atlanta.
Proctor Creek begins underground in the Gulch in downtown Atlanta and feeds into the Chattahoochee River just south of I-285.
Right now, Proctor Creek is polluted and full of garbage, old tires and even entire cars. But Teixeira can see beyond the beer cans and barbed wire fence to its natural beauty.
Teixeira knows a thing or two about home runs, and he believes Proctor Creek is a grand slam.
"Oh my goodness, this is a gem, this is a hidden gem," said Teixeira.
Teixeira attended Georgia Tech and saw the area's potential. "Yeah, Georgia Tech is a mile to the east you know, and this is kind of our backyard as a Georgia Tech alum," said Teixeira.
In 2008, Teixeira and a group of investors started buying vacant land around the creek. "If you cleaned up this area, you could be in Northeast Georgia up in the mountains you know, that could be the Soque River. People don't realize that they're in the middle of Atlanta," said Teixeira.
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In 2013, Teixeira formed the Emerald Corridor Foundation to clean up Proctor Creek. Debra Edelson, the foundation's Executive Director, says this project is special. "Atlanta has some parks, but a 7-mile protected corridor in the middle of our city a mile from downtown is just an enormous vision," said Edelson. Plans are in the works to build a park and trail along the creek for families to walk, run and bike. The 7-mile long trail will start near the Bankhead MARTA station and run all the way to the Chattahoochee River. It's expected to open later this year.
Cleaning up the creek is expected to take longer. Edelson says Proctor Creek carries 40 percent of the pollutants that Atlanta contributes to the Chattahoochee River. "Everything from just runoff on the streets that comes from your cars and trucks that just pollutes your roadways to bottles, cups that you see floating down the creek and the elevated levels of sewage, sadly," said Edelson. She said the cleanup is expected to cost about $11 million. But they won't know the exact cost until the federal agencies involved break down exactly what needs to be done, like removing trees and realigning banks.
"Our vision is within the next couple years, the Beltline will be running through here, the creek will be cleaned up and we can tell the community hey Proctor Creek is back. It's yours," said Teixeira. He believes once that happens, the area will attract businesses and more. "Schools and jobs, I mean economic opportunity. We want to bring in a grocery store. We want to bring in a drug store. We want to bring in new office buildings so people can work here," said Teixeira. He said this project is his way of making a lasting difference. "My legacy, I want people to say yeah he was a good baseball player, but he truly cared about the community and he made a positive impact in a blighted part of town," said Teixeira.
Because federal, state and local agencies are involved in Proctor Creek's cleanup, no one knows how long that part of the project will take.
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