At Rails-to-Trails Conservancy's (RTC) 25th Anniversary celebration in October, we honored a group of men and women--the inaugural Doppelt Family Rail-Trail Champions--who have made a remarkable contribution to the rail-trail movement during the past quarter century. We will be posting a blog story on each of the honorees during the coming weeks. Today we recognize Ed McBrayer, a concerned citizen who went on to become one of Georgia's most effective advocates for bike and pedestrian infrastructure.
Before he built a career helping people get around on the ground, Ed McBrayer worked on helping people get around up in space. The native Georgian, an Aerospace Engineering graduate from the Georgia Institute of Technology, was a systems engineer in the NASA Skylab space program.
In the early 1970s, McBrayer built his own home and enjoyed building it so much he quit his job in aerospace and went on to build more than 1,000 new homes in the Denver, Colo., area, where he became an avid recreational cyclist.
It was as chairman of the planning commission for the city of Englewood, Colo., that McBrayer first became interested in trails and biking and walking infrastructure, promoting a trail system along the South Platte River to provide alternative modes of transportation and opportunities for recreational cycling.
In 1991, he returned to Atlanta to find no trails, no bike lanes, no bike routes and very few sidewalks. So when the Olympics were awarded to Atlanta, McBrayer and two of his friends reasoned that in order for Atlanta to be a "world-class city," provisions for bike riding and pedestrian travel were a must. He helped form the PATH Foundation with a mission to build a network of off-road trails for use during and after the Olympics.
A year later, McBrayer helped the Georgia Department of Transportation organize the Transportation Enhancement (TE) Advisory Committee to help prioritize TE projects in Georgia.
With the help of many supporters, PATH built more than 20 miles of trails in time for the Olympics. Now in its 20th year, PATH has raised more than $95 million dollars from public and private sources to build more than 160 miles of trails throughout metro Atlanta and surrounding counties, including work on the Silver Comet and the developing Atlanta Beltline Trail.
McBrayer awarded the Doppelt Family Rail-Trail Champion grant given in his honor to theArabia Mountain Trail, which is built partially on an out-of-service rail spur into a large granite quarry. A short drive east of Atlanta, the 12-mile trail winds through large granite outcrops, wildflowers and mountain-like streams.