The Conservation Fund Is Committed to Equitable Park Development in Atlanta
By Stacy Funderburke
Atlanta rose in the ranks from 49th to 27th on the Trust for Public Land’s 2022 ParkScore Index®— the most complete and in-depth ranking of parks in our nation’s 100 largest cities. The rise is largely due to the recent increase of acres conserved for parks and greenspace in the last year. In 2020, we purchased the Lake Charlotte Nature Preserve, which protected over 200 acres of intact old-growth forest inside the city of Atlanta and became an official park in 2021. Although we are moving the needle toward progress, Atlanta still has much work to do under one of the newest ParkScore qualifiers: Equity.
At The Conservation Fund, we’re rolling up our sleeves to assist the City of Atlanta increase equitable park development efforts. Since 2001, we have partnered with the City of Atlanta to convert blighted properties into new parks and greenspaces. In recent years, the majority of these acquisitions have been in communities that lack investment in and access to parks.
When the topic of equitable park investment was raised at the latest CY23 Budget Briefings meeting, District 5 Council Member Liliana Bakhtiari noted that the City should invest more into the Parks department, which will ultimately allow Atlanta to rank higher among cities. “In the short time that I’ve been [an Atlanta City Council Member], it feels to me that the City depends on a lot of other people to carry their water when it comes to greenspace, and I think it’s about time that we put more investment into our parks and actually set [the Parks Department] up to succeed,” said Bakhtiari.
This commitment to greenspace expansion in Atlanta requires investment in new parks, like the Mattie Freeland Park opening soon in English Avenue and investment in underserved communities. The Conservation Fund is uniquely positioned to support equitable development because of the authentic relationships that we have built with community leaders, city officials and across organizations in the public and private sectors.
Our latest acquisition speaks directly to the City’s efforts of conserving Atlanta’s greenspace with more equitable outcomes in mind. Securing this site would not have been possible without The Kendeda Fund and community leaders like Donna Stephens who stepped in to ensure that this newest greenspace was protected despite its troubled past use. So where is this site?
Nestled between the Chattahoochee River and I-285 sit 77 acres filled with a legacy of pain and racial injustice formerly home to the Chattahoochee Brick Company. At Chattahoochee Brick, hundreds of convicts, mostly African American men, were forced to labor against their will after being accused of petty or baseless crimes. The site will now become the City of Atlanta’s first park with direct access to the Chattahoochee River and it will uplift stories of the people wrongfully subjected to convict leasing labor during the turn of the 20th century. Protecting sites like this ensures that troubled parts of our nation’s past are not forgotten and moves us one step closer toward more equitable park conservation efforts in Atlanta communities lacking park space.
Read more about how today we are one step closer to creating a new park for Atlanta and supporting the platform that Descendants of the Chattahoochee Brick Co. have long fought to bring to the forefront.