Column: Green space a priority for new Park Pride chief

By Maria Saporta
Friday, July 30, 2010

Park Pride, an Atlanta-based advocacy group for more green space and better-maintained parks, has hired a new executive director, Tom Salyers.

Salyers, who grew up in Atlanta, has spent the last 15 years in Washington, D.C., working the last 12 as a senior communications, marketing, public affairs and management executive with Zero to Three, a national nonprofit that promotes the healthy development of infants and toddlers.

Salyers is taking over the position that had been filled for the past six years by George Dusenbury. In May, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed named Dusenbury commissioner of parks.

“George left big shoes for Tom to fill,” said Sarah Yates Sutherland, president of the Park Pride board and a community volunteer. “What we were looking for in a new executive director was to have somebody build on what George has accomplished.”

But Sutherland added that Salyers’ experience in development and communications were skills Park Pride needed “to get to the next level” in the community.

“We think Tom’s background is ideal with what we are looking for right now,” Sutherland said. “We’re thrilled.”

Salyers, 47, who grew up near Murphey Candler Park near Ashford-Dunwoody Road, said he appreciates what healthy parks and green space mean to a city. In Washington, Salyers, his wife and two daughters were able to walk to three or four parks blocks from their home in Takoma Park in Maryland.

“Over the last 15 years I’ve seen what a first-rate park system can mean for a city,” Salyers said, adding that there were many more additional parks just a short drive away. “There also were lots of hiker and bicycle trails.”

Before he left his hometown, Salyers said he was aware that Atlanta ranked at the bottom in parks and green space compared to other major cities.

“For a city that’s as vibrant as Atlanta is, it was kind of shocking to see that we rank that low,” said Salyers, who will start his new job on Aug. 23. “I think parks and green space should be a big priority.”

Park Pride was founded in 1989. It helps establish Friends of Park organizations and it helps organize visioning projects and volunteer days. Park Pride also is an advocacy organization, establishing the Parks Atlanta Rescue Coalition.

“I want to see parks be the kind of issue that civic leaders will really embrace,” Salyers said. “And I hope the city council and the mayor will do what they can to fund its park system.

Saving the world

The Atlanta Daily World, the oldest black newspaper in the city, has entered into Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

Alexis Scott, the Daily World’s publisher and granddaughter of the newspaper’s founder, W.A. Scott, is doing all she can to save the family business and present a reorganization plan in the next couple of months.

Alexis Scott said three factors led to the Daily World’s Chapter 11: First, its historic home on Auburn Avenue was damaged in the tornado in 2008, and the Atlanta Daily World didn’t have business interruption insurance or environmental mitigation insurance. Also, there has been the economic downturn in the last couple of years. And finally, there has been the recent decline of the newspaper industry.

It is Scott’s 13th year running the paper. She left a career with Cox Enterprises Inc. to help the family newspaper.

“We’ve been struggling ever since I’ve been here,” Scott said. “We have done a lot to preserve the heritage and the history of the paper while bringing it into the 21st century. I’m real proud of what we’ve done.”

The Daily World was launched in 1928 to serve the African-American community, which was rarely covered in the mainstream media.

“I just want to make sure we are able to continue this voice that’s been here for 82 years,” said Scott, adding that one of her top challenges is to continue being a “significant voice” in the African-American community.

CDC official off to Seattle

A key official of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is leaving Atlanta to become dean of the School of Public Health at the University of Washington in Seattle.

Dr. Howard Frumkin, who has been active in the Atlanta environmental community, most recently has been special assistant to the CDC director for climate change and health.

Until January, Frumkin had headed the CDC’s Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, and the National Center for Environmental Health since 2005.

Great year for JA

Junior Achievement of Georgia had a “truly great year” that ended June 30.

In an e-mail to supporters, JA President Jack Harris said the organization’s outreach grew to more than 130,000 students this past year, representing a 20 percent increase in metro Atlanta.

Junior Achievement also was able to raise a total of $3.4 million in unrestricted funding — a 3 percent increase from last year. The organization also ended the year with a small operating surplus for the 16th year in a row.

Harris said that Junior Achievement’s reach at the middle and high school level had tripled since 2005.

Maria Saporta, Editor, is a longtime Atlanta business, civic and urban affairs journalist with a deep knowledge of our city, our region and state.  Since 2008, she has written a weekly column and news stories for the Atlanta Business Chronicle. Prior to that, she spent 27 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, becoming its business columnist in 1991. Maria received her Master’s degree in urban studies from Georgia State and her Bachelor’s degree in journalism from Boston University. Maria was born in Atlanta to European parents and has two young adult children.

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