By Esther Stokes, Park Pride
I’ve been involved in parks and greenspace organizations in Atlanta for the past 18 years, over which time I’ve served on the board and as board chair of both Park Pride and the Piedmont Park Conservancy, and on the boards of the Historic Fourth Ward Park Conservancy, the Georgia Advisory Board of the Trust for Public Land, and the Atlanta Audubon Society. My overarching goal and passion has always been for improving Atlanta’s parks and greenspaces; as Chair of Park Pride’s Advocacy Committee, I believe that all Atlantans in all neighborhoods should have access to quality parks.
So you’ll understand the challenge I faced when I was recently asked to speak on the state of Atlanta’s parks and greenspaces as part of Covenant Presbyterian Church’s “Caring for our City” speaker series. To boil 18 years of history and context into a single hour long presentation was incredibly difficult.
I was, however, able to narrow the focus and highlight the 10 Key Take-Aways on the State of Atlanta’s Parks & Greenspaces:
- Atlanta ranks low nationally for its parks and greenspace, and yet
- Atlanta is the envy of other cities because of the Atlanta BeltLine.
- Atlanta underfunds park operations and maintenance; we need to greatly increase funding for Atlanta’s Department of Parks and Recreation.
- Historically, the bar is set too low with regard to our parks and recreation in the City of Atlanta. Pay is low, and trained employees get hired away. We need to expect more, demand more, envision more, and hire more professionals (including gardeners) to oversee the parks.
- Atlanta has deep inequities across the city, with the Southside and Westside needing significant investment in existing parks and communities and the Northside needing more parks and park acreage. Everyone deserves quality parks that are well-maintained.
Atlanta cannot achieve significant improvement on the trajectory we are on. New creative thinking is needed to fund park acquisition, capital replacement and improvements, park operations and maintenance, and additional personnel.
- Atlanta needs a plan, a citywide greenspace vision, to work toward.
- What can you do? Get involved locally with your neighborhood park or across the city through Park Pride.
- What can you do? Support parks and greenspace nonprofits by contributing financially to them.
- What can you do? Get outside! Take a tour, walk in a park, have fun, and observe the natural world around you. I promise it will be time well spent!
Esther Stokes is the President of Stokes Landscape Design, a residential landscape design business. For the past 18 years, she has been involved with a number of nonprofit parks and greenspace organizations because of her belief that great parks make great cities. Today, she serves as the Advocacy Chair on Park Pride’s Board of Directors, as well as on the board for the Historic Fourth Ward Park Conservancy, the Georgia Advisory Board of the Trust for Public Land, and the Atlanta Audubon Society.
For information about a park near you, contact Park Pride, www.parkpride.org
To volunteer with Park Pride, www.parkpride.org
For BeltLine bus tours, www.beltline.org
For BeltLine arboretum walking tours, www.beltline.org
For BeltLine bike tours, www.beltline.org
For Piedmont Park bird walks, show up at the Community Center at 8am on the first Saturday of the month, www.atlantaaudubon.org