Atlanta’s biggest park opens in Westside

Greta Gustafson

After nearly 15 years of planning, Atlanta’s Westside Park has opened. The park is now Atlanta’s largest green space with nearly 280 acres of land surrounding the Bellwood Quarry.

The park serves multiple purposes, as a connection between the Atlanta BeltLine’s Westside Trail’s northern extension and the Proctor Creek Greenway, as well as a house for the Bellwood Quarry. It’s filled with grassy areas, paths, playgrounds and event areas.

“The park is a great investment in the growing city,” said Atlanta resident and commercial real estate agent Aileen Almassy. “Especially with the added benefit of utilizing the abandoned quarry for sustainable water reserves.”

Already, the park has attracted residents. Some have found their experience enjoyable, but others, including John Chou, think there are still some kinks to fix.

One suggestion for improvement is signage,” Chou said. “As a first time visit, it was difficult to navigate, even though there were park maps posted.” 

Other visitors share similar sentiments, including Westside resident Austin Garcia.

“It’s just kind of bare right now, but it is still phase one; so, there’s definitely room to grow,” Garcia said.

After a high profile murder in Piedmont Park in July, visitors said they were glad to see well-lit paths, fences and emergency call boxes stationed throughout the park. Katie Janness and her dog were found dead in Piedmont Park on July 28, the first reported killing in the park since 2009. 

“It was nice to see that there was more safety technology,” said junior Mia Otoski, who recently visited the park. “I saw multiple security cameras and lots of street lamps in the park. Especially after what happened in Piedmont Park, I think it’s assuring, specifically for people who want to go at night or alone.”

Junior Virginia Maguire agreed the new park felt safer but only slightly so.

“I do feel safer there because just being in Piedmont Park, I feel like you have to keep your guard up,” Maguire said. “With the Westside Park being newer and cleaner it seems safer, but overall, I feel like the safety precautions are the same at other Atlanta parks.”

The park is still in phase one with plans to expand the green space in the future. The main attraction is the Bellwood Quarry, which holds 2.4 billion gallons of emergency drinking water for the City of Atlanta. Prior to the use of the Quarry, there was only enough water stored to sustain the city in case of an emergency for three days. That emergency reserve time has now grown to 30 days. 

“I’ve lived next to the quarry my whole life, and it was empty for a long time,” Maguire said. “The city just filled it recently, and now it’s holding extra water for Atlanta residents.”

Westside Park and the Bellwood Quarry have been the site for numerous films and television shows, including “Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1,” “The Walking Dead,” “The Vampire Diaries” and “Stranger Things.”

“When I found out what was filmed there, I got excited because I love going to places where shows have been filmed,” Otoski said. “I was especially intrigued when I heard ‘Stranger Things’ was filmed there.”

With the park open to the public, gentrification has taken hold and is expected to continue in the Westside area, specifically in the Grove Park neighborhood. 

“The location of the park has already created a huge positive [economic] impact by attracting Microsoft to the city and the adjacent location for their Atlanta headquarters,” Almassy said. “The continued gentrification of West Midtown is going to expand the city with interesting nodes for a diverse workforce and continue to attract top talent and economic development.”

Some Westside residents, including Alanna Bennett, have already noticed changes in the area and expect to see more in the future. 

“House prices have gone up, and most likely will continue to,” Bennett said. “Perhaps, there will be more amenities like coffee shops, stores or retail and commercial spaces, but we’ll see how that goes.”

Aside from navigation challenges and lack of amenities, residents were glad to visit the new park and use it as a space for outdoor activity. 

“It’s an awesome new park,” Chou said. “Great place to run and bike and has a nice playground for kids as well. I love how Atlanta continues to invest in green space.”