By Maria Saporta
A long-time parks and green space advocate — Margaret Gray Connelly — is bringing new life to Park Pride, the leading Atlanta-based nonprofit focused on our region’s public parks.
Connelly’s first major event as Park Pride’s new executive director was at the annual Parks & Greenspace Conference held March 28 at the Atlanta Botanical Garden, where 300 people spent the day discussing the value and status of our park system.
Before joining Park Pride, Connelly served as vice president for programs at the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation with a special emphasis on its greenspace initiatives.
“Someone as talented as Margaret is a catch for any organization,” said Sarah Yates Sutherland, president of Park Pride’s board, in a statement. “We’re very excited to have her lead Park Pride. We’ve just expanded into DeKalb County, are partnering with the Atlanta BeltLine on its adoption program, and recently launched our updated strategic planning process. This is a very exciting time and we look forward to Margaret taking Park Pride to even higher levels.”
Park Pride was founded in 1989 as way to improve Atlanta’s park system. In 2010, Park Pride coordinated 15,000 volunteer hours in Atlanta’s parks and collaborated with more than 60 groups that are “friends” of various parks.
The organization had been working to improve the City of Atlanta’s unenviable rank as having the least amount of park space per capita among the nation’s top 25 cities. At the annual Parks & Greenspace Conference, it was announced that Atlanta is now ranked 24th, outranking Miami, which is now 25th.
For six years, the executive director of Park Pride was George Dusenbury. But in May, 2010, Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed tapped Dusenbury to become the city’s commissioner of parks and recreation.
In August, the organization named Tom Salyers, a communications and marketing executive who had been in Washington, D.C. working for a national early education nonprofit, to be its new executive director.
Apparently, that appointment did not work out. And Park Pride reached out to Connelly, who had been interviewed about the job before, but had passed on the opportunity because the timing was not right for her.
But now the timing is better for Connelly, and Park Pride has a new chief and renewed energy.