Laying the Foundation for the Work Ahead
By Michael Halicki, Park Pride’s Executive Director
As is often the case, the end of the year is a time of reflection and to take stock of accomplishments. Of the nearly 10 years that I’ve been the Executive Director of Park Pride, 2022 has been the most memorable, due in equal parts to the work we accomplished in improving neighborhood parks with neighbors and friends and the relationships we strengthened with new and old partners. Throughout 2022, Park Pride laid the foundation for the work ahead.
A Historic Milestone in Grantmaking
The year began with our biggest grantmaking cycle in our 33-year history: $2.3M awarded to 23 communities across the City of Atlanta and DeKalb County, with 60% of funding supporting parks in low-income neighborhoods, building upon Park Pride’s efforts to make great parks a reality in every neighborhood in Atlanta. Read more about Park Pride’s 2022 grantmaking cycle.
Formation of the Greenspace Advisory Council
Our grants were announced at City Hall, where Mayor Andre Dickens also announced the formation of the Greenspace Advisory Council, comprised of 13 environmental nonprofits who serve as advisors on Atlanta’s most pressing greenspace issues. The advisory council has met with the Mayor and his team three times in 2022, where we discussed topics including park equity and safety, workforce development and green jobs, land acquisition for parks, and maintaining quality parks for our communities. There has never been more collaborative energy around addressing these issue. Park Pride looks forward to continuing this work with Mayor Dickens, Commissioner of the Department of Parks and Recreation, Justin Cutler, other members of the City’s senior leadership team, and our partners on the Greenspace Advisory Council in 2023. Read more about the formation of the Greenspace Advisory Council.
Parks & Greenspace Conference Brings Together Parks Community
In March, our Parks & Greenspace Conference returned to the Atlanta Botanical Garden. The tulips were in bloom, the speakers were inspiring, and our spirits were uplifted by spending time with our greenspace friends. Together with nearly 400 park people from around Atlanta, Georgia, and the nation, we dug into the conference theme, The Parks We Need Now. My biggest lesson taken from conference is that the pre-pandemic status quo no longer delivers the parks Atlantans need or deserve, and we must have the courage to react to change and deliver a parks system that meets resident’s needs equitably as the city grows. Read more in our conference recap, The Courage to Change.
Greenspace Visions for Atlanta Communities
Our small but mighty team of professional landscape architects and urban planners were busy translating park dreams to paper, completing two park vision plans for communities 2022. This took place via Zoom, at on-site community meetings, and through work conducted out of our newly relocated offices at 160 Trinity Avenue (Park Pride continues to be co-located with City of Atlanta’s Department of Parks and Recreation). The team worked with the Riverside community in Northwest Atlanta to create a conceptual plan for what will become the City’s first park along the Chattahoochee, and with the Columbia Elementary School community in DeKalb to reimagine their schoolyard into a community schoolyard for neighbors to enjoy outside of school hours. They also conducted consultations for smaller park projects in 30 communities across our jurisdiction! Read more about the Park Visioning Program and reach out to schedule a consultation for your park.
Celebrating Park Improvements
But there are few things that give me as much pride as attending a ribbon cutting and seeing the hard work of the community with support from Park Pride translated into physical park improvements. Seeing the looks on kids’ faces as they race to the cool new soccer field (as they did at Sara J. González Park), or a dog take off across a newly renovated dog park (like at Freedom Barkway), or the tears of joy as community members dedicate a new community park to a loved one who had passed (like at the long-anticipated opening of Mattie Freeland Park). These are the moments where I know that Park Pride is making progress toward our vision of an Atlanta where every neighborhood has access to a great park.
Looking Ahead to 2023
Through these events and accomplishments in 2022, Park Pride laid a solid foundation upon which we’ll continue to build in 2023 and advance our mission to engage communities to activate the power of parks. We’ve added two new team members, (with two more on the way), and there are exciting program developments on the horizon that we can’t wait to share with you. Thank you for your ongoing support—with you on our green team, there is nothing we can’t achieve for Atlanta’s parks!