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Atlanta Audubon wins grant for garden in Washington Park, intern to study wildlife, plants

Washington Park was founded in 1919 as Atlanta's first greenspace dedicated to African Americans. File/Credit: David Pendered

By David Pendered

The Atlanta Audubon Society has won a national grant totaling $23,950 that it is to use for two purposes – paying an intern to work in the wildlife sanctuary program, and building a garden in historic Washington Park, Atlanta’s first greenspace dedicated to African Americans.

To create an annual intern program for a young adult, Atlanta Audubon will partner with the Greening Youth Foundation. The foundation was formed in 2008 to help youngsters and adults from underserved communities learn to become responsible stewards of the environment.

The Atlanta-based, tax-exempt foundation operates an internship program. In 2015, it provided internships and service crew projects for more than 100 youngsters and young adults, according to the foundation’s latest tax return available Tuesday from guidestar.org.

The intern chosen for Atlanta Audubon is to work with the group’s wildlife sanctuary program. The intern will have the opportunity to learn about native plants and birds, present outreach program, and help certify additional areas as wildlife sanctuaries.

These sanctuaries can be fairly small, backyard spaces where the homeowner has removed invasive species, planted native plants, and provides food, water and shelter for birds.

Angelou Ezeilo, founder and CEO of Greening Youth Foundation, said in a statement the intern will have the opportunity to see the benefits of protecting the environment.

“I have no doubt that by providing this type of opportunity to young adults creates a conservation ethic that will stay with them for life,” Ezeilo said.

Nikki Belmonte, Atlanta Audubon’s executive director, also cited the long-range goal of the program.

“We are also eager to continue working with our partners, Greening Youth, to find an intern who can not only help us advance our Wildlife Sanctuary Program, but also to give this young person an opportunity to learn first-hand how non-profit conservation organizations operate in hopes that they may pursue an environmental career,” Belmonte said in a statement.

At Washington Park, Atlanta Audubon plans to install a bird-friendly demonstration garden filled with native plants.

Washington Park was founded in 1919 as Atlanta’s first greenspace dedicated to African Americans. File/Credit: David Pendered

Christi Jackson, CEO of the Conservancy at Historic Washington Park, said the garden will be an asset as the park prepares to celebrate its 100th anniversary.

“Washington Park is an incredibly diverse urban ecosystem, and we look forward to working with Atlanta Audubon and Greening Youth to draw attention to the birds that call this space home,” Jackson said in a statement. “As we approach the park’s centennial year, an important goal is to encourage the citizens who use the park to appreciate and value the natural habitat and beauty of this landmark greenspace.”

Belmonte observed that this will be the organization’s second exibitat, a word coined to represent a merger of an exhibit and a habitat. The first was in Piedmont Park, and involved a native plant garden complete with the state’s first chimney installed to provide homes for chimney swifts.

“We are looking forward to installing our second ‘exhibitat’ in an iconic Atlanta park, where people can see what it means to be ‘bird-friendly,’ and we look forward to engaging the community in bird watching, Belmonte said in a statement.

This is how the park is described on a page of the Atlanta BeltLine’s website:

  • “Washington Park is situated in a historic neighborhood also named Washington Park. In 1919, the park was designated as the first recreational greenspace in Atlanta for African-Americans, and is just blocks from Booker T. Washington High School, which was opened in 1924 as the first high school in Georgia for African-Americans.
  • “The establishment of the school coincided with a period of growth in African-American neighborhoods in southwest Atlanta. Washington High has some notable alumni, including Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The building itself, on the National Register of Historic Places, was designed by Atlanta-born architect Eugene C. Wachendorff, and additions have been made to the original four-story building over time.”




David Pendered

David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with more than 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written for print and digital publications, and advised on media and governmental affairs. Previously, he spent more than 26 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and won awards for his coverage of schools and urban development. David graduated from North Carolina State University and was a Western Knight Center Fellow.


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