Is It A School? Is It A Park? It’s BOTH!
By George Dusenbury, The Trust for Public Land in Georgia
Sarah Kirsch, Urban Land Institute, Atlanta District Council
New analysis from The Trust for Public Land shows that opening schoolyards to the public during non-school hours—including summer break, after school and on weekends—would provide access to open space for 19.6 million people, including 5.2 million children, who today do not have a park within a 10-minute walk of home.
While access to parks in Atlanta continues to improve, 29 percent of our city’s residents do not live within a 10-minute walk of a park. To address this disparity, The Trust for Public Land, the Urban Land Institute Atlanta District Council (ULI Atlanta) and Park Pride are launching the Atlanta Community Schoolyards program to reimagine school playgrounds for public use during non-school hours. The Trust for Public Land has worked in New York, Washington D.C. and other cities across the country to open and improve hundreds of schoolyards for use when school isn’t in session.
Working alongside Atlanta Public Schools (APS) and other partners, the Atlanta Community Schoolyards program will invest in 10 or more schools over a three-year period with the ultimate goal of increasing the number of residents who can safely reach a park within a 10-minute walk.
And while turning schoolyards into multi-use spaces is critical to increasing the number of people who can easily reach a park, the ability to safely travel to these new amenities is equally so. ULI Atlanta is assessing the infrastructure needed to achieve this goal. Together, ULI Atlanta and TPL are focusing our combined national expertise right here in Atlanta to make more parks more accessible to more people, to transform Atlanta-area schoolyards into epicenters of community.
In support of its mission to provide leadership in the responsible use of land and in creating and sustaining thriving communities, ULI Atlanta continues to be focused on creating more walkable communities, how Atlanta’s infrastructure can better connect communities and its assets. Are sidewalks complete and ADA-compliant? Is bike infrastructure taken into account? Are crosswalks located at logical points, and are they clearly marked? Are there multiple entry points to school playgrounds to provide access to multiple neighborhoods? Volunteers from ULI Atlanta are already working to assess these and other important factors around some APS schools.
The program will begin with three pilot schools to be announced very soon. ULI Atlanta is conducting final field surveys and will share its analysis and recommendations this fall to inform proposed capital investments to improve infrastructure around the pilot sites. The Trust for Public Land and Park Pride will engage students and residents in the surrounding communities to collaboratively develop exciting plans for the spaces. The organizations continue to look to our partners in the corporate and philanthropic communities to help us implement and grow the Atlanta Community Schoolyards program.
Together, we can transform schoolyards from closed-off spaces into hubs of activity where neighbors congregate, play and build better, stronger, healthier communities, after school and all year round.
George Dusenbury has served as Georgia State Director for The Trust for Public Land since 2016. Previously, he led Park Pride and served as commissioner of the City of Atlanta Parks and Recreation Department.
The Trust for Public Land is a national organization that creates parks and protects land for people, ensuring healthy, livable communities for generations to come. Since 1972, the organization has completed more than 5,000 park and conservation projects across the country, conserving more than three million acres of land.
Sarah Kirsch is a 20-year veteran of real estate, land use, and community development. She currently serves as Executive Director of ULI Atlanta, one of the most active district councils of the Urban Land Institute (ULI). Under Sarah’s leadership, ULI Atlanta has been focused on advancing inclusive walkable urban places with a specific focus on housing affordability and the connections between mobility and land use. Sarah began working with ULI Atlanta in 2012 as Director of Leadership and Livable Communities.
ULI Atlanta is a District Council of the Urban Land Institute. With over 1,400 members throughout the Atlanta region (Georgia, Alabama & Eastern Tennessee), ULI Atlanta is one of the largest and most active ULI District Councils worldwide. The mission of the Urban Land Institute is to provide leadership in the responsible use of land and in creating and sustaining thriving communities worldwide.