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The Healthy Side of the Train Tracks


In its heyday, Atlanta’s historic Pullman Train Yard was where the South’s train cars and large locomotives were repaired and refitted for service. These days, the 25-acre site sits abandoned, a decaying piece of Atlanta’s industrial past.

But Leader David Epstein envisions a bright new future for the train yard. He wants to transform it into a sports and nutrition facility, where Atlanta residents — especially children — can take part in a number of sports and activities and also learn how to eat healthy.

“In Atlanta, we have a tremendous amount of people and tons of families who are moving back into the city, and we just don’t have the infrastructure for sports and activities,” he says. “I thought, ‘We have to find some space, so old industrial spaces in town, and turn them into active spaces.’”

A preschool teacher and tennis coach, Epstein launched the nonprofit Atlanta ContactPoint with the mission of building a multi-use activity center that can be used to promote overall wellness.

The Pullman train yard site is perfect, he says. Nearby public transit connects the North and South sides of the city, meaning all Atlanta residents will be able to use it, especially low-income residents who might not have any other options. The site also is big enough to accommodate multiple needs, from sports fields to indoor basketball courts to a greenhouse and office space for nonprofit groups.  

The goal, Epstein says, is to make it a central place for Atlanta denizens to get healthy. “I thought, ‘Wow, this is a great opportunity to turn this space into a greens space, where every square inch will be for activity,” Epstein says.

While Atlanta ContactPoint raises the funds necessary to buy the site — the state is taking bids on the property later this year, Epstein says — the organization already is working to build healthy habits with its “PLAY DAYs.” Family-focused events held at local Atlanta parks, the PLAY DAYs offer residents the chance to try out different types of sports and activities.

Throughout the day, local coaches and organizations offer classes to get kids physically active, including flag football, ultimate Frisbee, street hockey, yoga, martial arts, tennis, dance and even hula-hooping.

“You just get a choice to play different sports you might not normally get to play,” Epstein says. “We want kids to be introduced to new things.”

Local farmer’s markets and other retailers also are scheduled to take part in the PLAY DAYS, offering samples of healthy products to try at home. ContactPoint also will help promote public transit and alternative transportation via “Bike to PLAY DAY,” which will see participants meeting at a transit station and bicycling to the park where the main event is being held.

Six PLAY DAYs are already scheduled be held this year, with the first one set for March 16. While it might be a few years before the new facility is built at the old Pullman site, Epstein is confident that his organization already is making an impact.

“It’s all about playing, having fun and learning about what it takes to be healthy,” Epstein says. “And these are things we can do now.”

Click here to connect with David Epstein.