The Trust for Public Land and Cook Park: Success Story #5,401
By Jay Wozniak, Georgia Urban Parks Director with the Trust for Public Land in Georgia
The Vine City and English Avenue neighborhoods on the west side of Atlanta have been home to many of our nation’s Civil Rights leaders and a vibrant African American middle class. But due to a complex set of social and economic challenges over time, this once flourishing community has suffered population loss, disinvestment and increased crime.
Compounding these difficulties, residents endured flooded streets and homes with every heavy rain. This problem was brought into sharp focus in 2002 when a devastating flood displaced 160 families, calling attention to the effects of poorly planned development, outdated sewer infrastructure and an inordinate amount of impervious surfaces.
Today, with the construction of the Mercedes-Benz Stadium, the creation of the Westside Future Fund and other investments on the Westside, many people and organizations are working to position this area for renewed prosperity. As the energy and momentum has grown, The Trust for Public Land is leveraging the expertise of our national organization and relationships built over our 25-year history in Georgia to create a park that will play a critical role in revitalizing the Westside of Atlanta.
With the support of the local community and a multitude of partners, Rodney Cook, Sr. Park (Cook Park) in Historic Vine City will create a community gathering space – and will employ green infrastructure to resolve flooding, one of the primary factors that have led to the decline of this historic neighborhood. Located on the south side of Joseph E. Boone Boulevard, two blocks west of the Georgia World Congress Center, and one block west of historic Sunset Avenue, this 16-acre park is designed and programmed to be accessible for all park users. It will use an attractive retention pond and other green infrastructure elements to address and control stormwater, similar to Historic Fourth Ward Park.
In partnership with the Atlanta Departments of Watershed Management and Parks and Recreation, the National Monuments Foundation and many others, The Trust for Public Land aims for the park to be complete by early 2019. When complete, Cook Park will provide tremendous benefits that will further foster the revitalization, including:
- Strengthening community – people who live near parks know more of their neighbors, have more friends and are happier with where they live;
- Improving physical health – access to parks increases physical activity, while time spent in nature reduces cholesterol and blood pressure;
- Boosting mental health – exposure to parks decreases stress, lowers anxiety and improves cognitive ability; and
- Cleaning the environment – parks combat air pollution, reduce flooding, improve water quality and provide habitat for birds and other wildlife
The Trust for Public Land is excited to be a part of implementing a transformative public space – while honoring and preserving the value a community’s history adds to Atlanta – because that’s what we do best. A park is so much more than trees, paths and playground equipment. Parks are where people gather and seek solace. Where they exercise and relax. Where nature and people thrive together. That’s why we have helped create and protect more than 5,400 parks and natural areas across the country. We are looking forward to adding Cook Park to that list to ensure that Atlanta’s Westside is a healthy, livable community for generations to come.
Jay Wozniak is the Director of Urban Parks for The Trust for Public Land’s Georgia office where he coordinates the design and construction of parks within the state for the non-profit organization. Wozniak is a landscape architect and LEED Accredited Professional with 16 years of experience leading and collaborating on the planning and implementation of sustainable public open space projects throughout the Southeast.
Photo above: Perspective rendering looking Northeast across Cook Park toward Midtown skyline. Conceptual rendering by HDR, Inc., Courtesy of The Trust for Public Land.