The Impact of an Integrated Park System

By Carlos Perez, Co-Chair, Parks & Greenspace Conference; Park Pride board member

Over the last few decades, the idea of thinking about city greenspaces as a system has been taken to a new level, and Washington, D.C., Los Angeles and San Francisco have led the way in demonstrating the benefits of such systems.  

Carlos Perez, Co-Chair, Parks & Greenspace Conference; Park Pride board member

Carlos Perez, Co-Chair, Parks & Greenspace Conference; Park Pride board member

With the City of Atlanta’s Atlanta City Design underway (and the related Urban Ecology Framework that supports it), the stage is being set for an update to the city’s parks and greenspace plan. As I see it, Atlanta has the potential to join these cities in leveraging the full benefits of an integrated park system through system-wide planning.

Central to the benefits of an integrated park system is its flexibility to tackle complex social, environmental and economic challenges—such as traffic congestion, affordable housing and social justice, health, food deserts, flooding, water quality and water scarcity—that metropolitan areas face.

Park Pride’s 16th Annual Parks & Greenspace Conference is approaching on Monday, March 27th. Its theme, Connecting with Parks, will focus on these challenges presented by metropolitan areas, discuss the myriad of ways that parks address them, and highlight successful examples of government, business and nonprofit communities working together to multiply the benefits of our greenspaces for urban dwellers.

conference photoFor example, representatives from the Center for Disease Control and prominent landscape architecture firms will discuss emerging trends in partnerships resulting in greenspace designs that actually provide therapy and wellness benefits to users. We’ll also hear from experts about how trails, such as the Atlanta BeltLine, unlock the potential for balanced economic development that can be catalytic in creating new spaces for affordable housing.

Additionally, it’s important to acknowledge that a “systems approach” to park planning, design and management allows municipalities to stretch implementation dollars. That means a community receives multiple services for every dollar spent on a park project, a huge benefit considering Atlanta’s projected population growth and the anticipated infrastructural needs to support that growth.

During the current mayoral administration, the City of Atlanta leadership has been actively working across departments to look at the City’s “system” in its entirety. A panel of these government powerhouses (including Stephanie Stuckey Benfield, Chief Resilience Officer, Faye DiMassimo, Renew Atlanta Infrastructure Program General Manager, Tim Keane, Commissioner of Department of Planning & Community Development, Amy Phuong, Commissioner of the Department of Parks & Recreation, and Kishia L. Powell, Commissioner of Department of Watershed Management) will speak at the Parks & Greenspace Conference on how they are taking the systems approach to city-wide planning, with specific attention to integrating the various benefits of parks and trails into stormwater management and transportation.

There is much to be discussed on the topic of integrated park systems, and I encourage you to visit the Park Pride website to view the conference program and the topics that will be covered.

16th Annual Parks & Greenspace Conference
Monday, March 27th
Atlanta Botanical Garden
8 A.M. – 5 P.M.
Registration is OPEN

Please join me at Connecting with Parks to learn more about the impact that parks and greenspace systems can have on your daily life and the future of the Metro Atlanta area.

Hope to see you there,


P.S. – In conjunction with the Parks & Greenspace Conference, Park Pride is hosting two tours that demonstrate the “systems approach” to park and trail planning around the city: on Saturday, March 25th, you can join a bike tour of Atlanta’s eastside and learn about the role parks and trails are playing in the development along the Memorial Drive corridor; and Sunday, March 26th, you can join a tour to Roswell to learn about two projects that demonstrate the successful collaboration across municipalities to create public benefit through greenspace.

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