The Conservation Fund: Making Conservation Work Across America and Here in Atlanta.
By The Conservation Fund
The Conservation Fund works on behalf of city and county partners to purchase land for parks, greenspaces, and trails that will be permanently protected for public use and environmental sustainability. The Fund recently purchased 216-acres of forested land in southeast Atlanta known as the Lake Charlotte Nature Preserve. This land in the South River Garden community will become Atlanta’s largest protected forest and contribute to the city’s goal of preserving and growing the existing tree canopy. By protecting these types of properties, we can ensure Atlanta continues to be known as the “City in the Forest”.
The Atlanta Beltline
The Conservation Fund has been helping to advance the land acquisition for the Atlanta Beltline, securing the trail corridor and park connections, as well as properties for affordable housing and other community benefits related to the trail. We recently supported the acquisition of the nearly 2-mile Kudzu spur that will help connect westside neighborhoods near the Bankhead MARTA station and the Proctor Creek Greenway back into the downtown urban center.
In addition to acquiring land, we have a suite of programs that support community-led efforts that focus on equitable development principals, provide opportunities for environmental education, and raise awareness about environmental justice issues throughout the metro Atlanta area. These are collaborative efforts, including residents, other Atlanta-area nonprofits, municipal partners, and philanthropic supporters.
Parks with Purpose
The Parks with Purpose initiative began in Atlanta in 2012 and has now expanded into Raleigh, NC; Durham, NC; Baltimore, MD; Kansas City, MO; and Washington, DC. The pillars of the initiative are to build parks in underserved communities that provide tailored solutions to environmental issues, job security, and environmental education.
Through a community visioning process, residents determine what amenities best suit their neighborhood while learning about the benefits of green infrastructure. Through our partnership with Greening Youth Foundation, a local non-profit with global presence, we have facilitated green job training during the construction of these parks to provide hard and soft skills that lead to more sustainable job opportunities for residents.
Kathryn Johnston Memorial Park, the latest Park with Purpose, opened in November 2019 in the English Avenue Community in Atlanta. This project was completed in partnership with community residents, and nonprofit partners at Park Pride, Chattahoochee Riverkeeper, West Atlanta Watershed Alliance, and more than 30 other partners and funders. This park was planned, developed, and constructed with and by the community. Today, residents are developing a Friends group to activate and maintain the park and to build community resilience!
In partnership with Park Pride, we continue to build capacity in the community by supporting Park Ambassador opportunities for dedicated residents who serve as champions for their local parks. Ambassadors organize events, activities, and maintenance in their park, and encourage widespread community participation in these important public spaces.
“As Park Ambassador I have gained a variety of new skills and knowledge and have found a new path in my life that I love and that helps my community!”
– Annie Moore, Lindsay Street Park, English Avenue Neighborhood
The Urban Food Forest at Browns Mill located in southeast Atlanta, provides environmental and urban agricultural education opportunities to residents in an area with scarce access to fresh produce. The Conservation Fund acquired this 7-acre site in 2016 and supported a community visioning process in partnership with the City of Atlanta Office of Resilience and the U.S. Forest Service. Partners at Trees Atlanta stepped up to support implementation of the community vision, and working with thousands of volunteers, they have planted more than 2,200 edible plants. This includes fruit trees, like apples, peaches, and native paw-paw trees, as well as edible vines, bushes, groundcovers, and herbs planted all throughout the property. The site also include passive nature trails, access to the headwaters of the South River, and is home to countless birds and other wildlife.
Did you know that the headwaters of the Flint River flows under the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport? The Conservation Fund is working in partnership with American Rivers, the Atlanta Regional Commission and the Flint Riverkeeper to restore portions of the river and to spread awareness about the regional significance of this important river.
The Conservation Fund protected this 11-acre property in partnership with the Clayton County Water Authority. The County will oversee stream restoration activities aimed at water quality improvements and has plans for future trail and natural space amenities that will provide public access to the creek and additional recreation opportunities for residents.
Working Farms Fund
We are launching the Working Farms Fund to conserve critical farmland within the greater Metro Atlanta area and support the expansion of next-generation farm businesses. During this critical time in history, food security and small businesses are vital to the health of our cities.
The Conservation Fund has partnered with ECO-Action, West Atlanta Watershed Alliance, and American Rivers to create the Atlanta Watershed Network. Participants reside in various watersheds throughout Atlanta including Intrenchment Creek, Proctor Creek, South River, and Flint River watersheds. They are enrolled in an immersive course that explores water quality issues and educates residents on the various ways that they can jumpstart green infrastructure projects to improve the health of their watershed. We’ve adapted the course to include social distancing requirements and just kicked off our fourth year with a new virtual class that started in May.
During the Summer of 2019, students from Atlanta area high schools participated in the first Atlanta Watershed Learning Network Summer Youth Camp. Students were engaged in environmental education and STEM learning activities, while exploring greenspaces across the city and connecting with natural systems in their communities.
The Arabia Mountain Heritage National Heritage Area may look like a remote location, but it is only 20 minutes east of downtown Atlanta. The area provides important regional recreational opportunities and the unique geologic formations have created a distinctive ecosystem, with some of the plants and animals not found anywhere else in the world. The Conservation Fund has protected more than 2,200 acres within the Heritage Area, spanning both Arabia and Panola Mountains.
As Thought Leaders in Sustainable Communities, the Fund is dedicated to supporting public greenspaces projects that benefit all communities. This includes implementing programs targeted toward marginalized and vulnerable populations that create equitable access to greenspaces and improve community resilience. Although this presentation shows a sampling of our work from across metro Atlanta, we plan to share more in-depth stories highlighting these and other statewide and regional projects throughout the next year. Feel free to reach out to anyone on our team to learn more about our work here in Atlanta, across Georgia, and across the country!
Your support helps sustain our work in Atlanta and across the nation. Consider a gift to help us create lasting conservation solutions in the communities that matter to you.