It Takes a Village to Make a Park
Read Park Pride’s story of impact below from Michael Halicki.
Michael Halicki, Park Pride Executive Director
Over the past 29 years, Park Pride has learned that quality parks lead to stronger neighborhoods and stronger neighborhoods lead to a better Atlanta. Through Park Pride’s work on Atlanta’s Westside with The Conservation Fund, we’ve learned from residents that parks need to be about more than just parks. Parks provide places for neighbors to gather and for children to play. They can also help to manage rain events that flood people’s yards and their homes. They can also provide opportunities to put people to work.
Back in 2010, Park Pride was asked by [State Representative] Able Mable Thomas to work with the community to support the first park in English Avenue. What resulted, the Proctor North Avenue Study, was not just a plan for a single park. It was a vision for a series of parks to address these larger issues. Out of that vision came Lindsay Street Park in English Avenue and the expansion of Vine City Park. It also laid the ground work for the Joseph E. Boone “green street” improvements and the construction presently underway to create Rodney Cook Sr. Park by the City of Atlanta and a partnership between the Trust for Public Land and National Monuments Foundation.
On August 23rd, a groundbreaking ceremony was held for the next English Avenue greenspace identified in that vision. The greenspace, formerly known as Boone Park West, is located at Joseph E. Boone Boulevard and Oliver Street. City of Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms presided over the dedication ceremony where she, along with Atlanta City Councilmember Ivory Lee Young, Jr. and Department of Parks and Recreation Commissioner Amy Phuong, revealed the park’s official new name—the Kathryn Johnston Memorial Park, named for an English Avenue resident who was tragically killed by police in 2006. The dedication of the park memorializes Kathryn Johnston’s untimely death and demonstrates that parks can be about so much more than a park’s physical attributes. Parks can lead to healing and transcendence of a tragedy that has implications for the city as a whole.
For Kathryn Johnston Memorial Park, Park Pride engaged the community in an 8-month park visioning process that has resulted in a vision plan. We are also involved in design and construction and providing support through Park Pride’s grant making program – thanks to the generous support of the Woodruff Foundation.
Several partner organizations are playing key roles in bringing Kathryn Johnston Memorial Park to fruition. The list is so long, in fact, that by a “number of partners per acre measurement,” I am confident that this project has set a record for collaboration. Partners include: City of Atlanta’s Departments of Parks and Recreation and Watershed Management, the City of Atlanta’s Office of Resilience, West Atlanta Watershed Alliance, ECO-Action, Chattahoochee Riverkeeper, Community Improvement Association, The Conservation Fund, The Proctor Creek Stewardship Council, Greening Youth Foundation, English Avenue Neighborhood Association, University Community Development Corporation and Westside Future Fund.
Kathryn Johnston Memorial Park would not be possible without an equally long list of funders. Those funders include: The AEC Trust, Anonymous, Atlanta Department of Parks and Recreation, Atlanta Mayor’s Office of Sustainability, Bonneville Environmental Foundation, Chattahoochee Riverkeeper, The Coca-Cola Company, The Coca-Cola Foundation, Cox Automotive, Dorothy & Charlie Yates Family Fund, Environmental Protection Agency, Georgia Aquarium, Georgia-Pacific Foundation, The Home Depot Foundation, The Imlay Foundation, Invest Atlanta, National Recreation & Parks Association, Park Pride, Pisces Foundation, PNC Bank, Project Reinvest, SunTrust Foundation, Turner Foundation, U-Haul and the U.S. Forest Service.
I’d like to recognize the members of the community who have devoted countless hours to this project: Tony Torrence, Mother Mamie Moore, Annie Moore, Kelly Brown, Shade Yvonne Jones, Juanita Wallace, Rosario Hernandez, Tracy Bates, Patricia Campbell and Linda Adams.
In looking at this long list of partners, you might raise the question of whether it should take this many people to build a single park. It is a fair question. Here is my response: If your goal is to build a single park, fewer partners may be justified. In this case, however, it takes a village to make a park. Kathryn Johnston Memorial Park is part of a larger vision for a series of parks on Atlanta’s westside. This larger vision requires a more expansive, more inclusive approach. This approach is building momentum, park by park, with a growing list of supporters that join us for each new win. Kathryn Johnston Memorial Park is a big win! It builds on past efforts at Lindsay Street Park and the expansion of Vine City Park. It lays the ground work for additional big wins to come.