Connectivity and the Making of a Park Advocate
By Michael Halicki
- connectivity will create a new way of living in Atlanta, and
- park experiences create park advocates.
1.) Connectivity will create a new way of living in Atlanta
During a morning panel, Ed McBrayer, Executive Director of the PATH Foundation, shared his aspiration for Atlanta to become the most trail connected city in the United States by 2025. Later, in an article on SaportaReport regarding the collapse of I-85, Maria Saporta highlighted the value of multi-use trails, not just as linear parks, but also as alternative transportation options.
The emerging trail network has the potential to become more than a recreational amenity and more than a commute alternative. What we are talking about here is bigger than that. It’s a different way of life. This is a point worth emphasizing as we plan the future of our city, our region and jurisdictions in between. It is my hope that our emerging network of trails and greenspaces will be a major focus of the upcoming Atlanta Mayor’s race.
2.) Park experiences create park advocates
A major highlight of the Parks & Greenspace Conference for me was the keynote address by Audrey Peterman (co-author of Legacy on the Land). Audrey is a national leader in the movement to make America’s public lands relevant to everybody. She believes parks – national, state and local – are the glue that hold our country together.
At the conference, she described her sense that there is a magic and energy in parks that awaken visitors to the realization that these places must be fought for and defended. For her, it was the experience at Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park that changed her into a warrior for public lands. Here in Atlanta, she described experiencing the beauty and a connection with the divine at Cascade Springs Nature Preserve, Piedmont Park and other treasures in our city that evoked a similar passion for park advocacy.
It is clear to me now that great park experiences provide the raw material essential to the creation of a park advocate. Audrey implored the audience to go out and create more park advocates: “Take somebody to a city park. Take somebody who does not yet have a passion for parks. Take them out to a local, city park and introduce them to the resources we have and how they hold us together.”
Through experience, we expand our understanding. And by sharing this understanding, we will build Atlanta’s park advocacy community.