Atlanta’s long-awaited Westside Park recently opened (first phase) and it’s ready to be explored. The gigantic park, located west of Midtown, has been in the works for over 15 years at a cost of $44 million. The true beauty of the park, eventually spanning 280 acres, is the former Bellwood Quarry, now a reservoir set to hold 2.4 billion gallons of water, which contains the emergency drinking water supply for the city.
Larger than Chastain Memorial Park in Buckhead and Piedmont Park in Midtown, Westside Park is open 6 am-11 pm daily. Westside Park features amenities parents will enjoy: playground, stroller-friendly trails, free parking, and plenty of restroom facilities. Note: Though Phase 1 of Westside Park is complete, the public space is not completely finished and thus, some attractions, park hours, and other details could change as the project nears completion. Read our guide below and be one of the first to enjoy this urban oasis!
Westside Park is an idyllic greenspace highlighting the Westside's urban landscape.
Westside Park: Trails
Westside Park offers 2.5 miles of ADA-accessible trails that loop and crisscross throughout the park. You can switch course at any juncture without getting lost. Strategically placed signs will guide you to the playground and other amenities. For a good overview, take the 1.3-mile purple trail.
On any given day, you’ll find moms pushing strollers, people walking dogs, and runners and cyclists enjoying the paths. Because the trails are 10 feet wide, it doesn’t get crowded. Plus, emergency call boxes are placed at intervals throughout the park as an added safety feature.
The trails meander around many wide-open greenspaces. It’s not uncommon to see families spreading out picnic blankets or running with kites. Listen to the crickets and birds as forested trees surround the border of the park. But for a few glimpses of Atlanta’s skyline, it doesn’t feel like being in an urban area.
Westside Park: Playground
The hub of activity revolves around the playground. Sit at one of the many picnic tables under the covered pavilion and let your kids explore the children’s area. A tall climbing structure complete with two slides delights little ones while another slide built into the slope of a nearby hill provides additional intrigue.
Nearby, kids can walk across suspended wooden beams while holding onto a rope for guidance. In another mulched area, you’ll hear laughter from kids on the saucer swings or running around a large disc similar to a merry-go-round. Musical notes arise from little ones banging on a cone-shaped outdoor percussion instrument.
Because Westside Park's reservoir holds 1.4 billion gallons of water for the city's emergency drinking supply, it's not open for water activities.
Westside Park: The Reservoir
To the left of the playground, a tall, chain-linked fence separates the walking path and benches from the reservoir. Parents will appreciate that they don’t have to worry about little ones accidentally wandering into the 45-acre water hole. Because the quarry contains a 30-day emergency supply of drinking water for the city, water activities such as boating or swimming are prohibited.
This short path ends at the Department of Watershed Management’s new pump station. Housing electrical equipment as well as offices and a conference room, the sleek building features large palladium windows looking more like a museum than a typical municipal eyesore.
Westside Park: Grand Overlook
Following along the purple trail, you’ll come to a staircase leading to another highlight of the park – the Grand Overlook. Gazing at the sparkling, blue water surrounded by steep granite cliffs, you’ll feel like you’re on a vacation far away. In reality, you’re standing in the heart of Atlanta looking at an engineering marvel.
For over 100 years, the site served as Bellwood Quarry until the city purchased it in 2006. Fans may recognize the craggy cliffs from several shows filmed in Atlanta including “The Hunger Games” and “The Walking Dead.”
City officials procured a custom-built drill, nicknamed "Driller Mike," to repurpose the 400-foot hole for emergency water storage. Over a couple of years, "Driller Mike" bore a five-mile tunnel connecting the quarry to both the Chattahoochee River and the Department of Watershed Management’s Hemphill Water Treatment Plant. Today the reservoir contains 2.4 billion gallons of water.
Westside Park: Connectivity
Near the main parking lot, Grove Park Place (the red trail) appears. This former road, which the city converted to a trail, leads south to the Proctor Creek Greenway. Currently, the three-mile Proctor Creek Greenway allows pedestrians and cyclists to access the Bankhead Marta Station. Eventually, it will connect the Atlanta BeltLine to the Chattahoochee River. Additionally, adventurous parents can take the recently completed Westside BeltLine Connector trail near the southeastern edge of the park 1.7 miles to downtown Atlanta.
Westside Park is a colossal green jewel for Atlanta, eventually becoming the largest park in the metro region.
Westside Park: Access
Unlike most urban parks, parking is plentiful with 450 spaces at two free, well-lit parking lots on Johnson Road. Both entrances offer pavilions with restrooms, water fountains, and picnic tables. At the main entrance, cars drive under a gateway sculpture designed by the late John Portman. Another sculpture, "The Birth of Atlanta," designed for the 1996 Olympics, resides nearby. At night, both sculptures light up adding to the aesthetic appeal of the park.
Westside Park: Tips
- Bring a hat and plenty of sunscreen as most of the trails and the playground areas offer little shade. The best time to visit during the summer is in the morning or early evening to avoid the heat.
- Westside Park is dog-friendly and offers doggie drinking fountains. However, dog waste bags aren’t provided so bring your own if you plan to bring Fido.
- Make sure you put “NW” in your GPS or you’ll end up in another part of Atlanta.
- Park at the main entrance at 1600 Johnson Road NW. For the most part, the trails are relatively flat except to and from the higher elevation of the other parking lot at 1660 Johnson Road NW. This isn’t an issue going down to the playground, but one might find it challenging pushing a stroller or carrying tired children uphill to the car.
- While food options currently don’t exist in the park, you can bring a picnic. Or check out the food hall at the newly opened Chattahoochee Food Works nearby. With over 25 vendors, you can find Cuban sandwiches, Argentinian empanadas, barbeque, and a host of other choices.
Photos by Bill Leffler