Gathering for the Greener Good

Parks & Greenspace Conference

Each spring, Park Pride hosts the annual Parks & Greespace Conference, the largest parks conference in the southeast, to explore a selected theme about parks and greenspaces. It is a wonderful environment for networking with elected officials, community leaders, and park advocates who are driven to improve parks and strengthen communities.


16th Annual Parks & Greenspace Conference:
Connecting with Parks

The 16th Annual Parks & Greenspace Conference, Connecting with Parks, will explore how parks and greenspaces bridge gaps between individuals, communities, political jurisdictions, and ecosystems to become places of regional importance.

Whether a transportation corridor such as a green street, a linear park spanning several neighborhoods, or a network of parks designed to capture rainwater, our parks and greenspace serve a vitally important role in connecting us to the environment, to our neighborhoods, to commerce, and to each other.

Connect to the Theme

The conference program, consisting of tours and lectures led by both local and national experts, will examine how greenspaces connect our communities, cities and environments together through discussions pertaining to:

  • Health & wellness
  • History
  • Design
  • Transportation

  • Water
  • Biodiversity & ecology
  • Equitable development

Who Should Attend

The Parks & Greenspace Conference offers something for everyone!

  • Parks & recreation professionals
  • Policy makers
  • Architects & landscape architects
  • Urban planners

  • Community members
  • Environmental & civil engineers
  • Real estate developers
  • Environmental lawyers
  • Anyone who loves parks!

Keynote Speakers:

audrey_smallAudrey Peterman

Audrey Peterman is a national leader in the movement to make America’s public lands relevant to every demographic group, believing they are the glue that holds our country together. She is the co-author of Legacy on the Land: A Black Couple Discovers Our National Inheritance and Tells Why Every American Should Care, and President of Earthwise Productions.

How Parks Develop Citizenship in a Disconnected World

Parks and public lands are the glue that holds our cities, and thereby country, together. How can we utilize parks and open spaces to begin a conversation about our commonalities and civic responsibilities? Audrey Peterman, a nationally recognized leader in the movement to make America’s parks—national, state and urban—relevant to every demographic group in our population, will inspire with her strategies and success stories of nurturing citizenship and civic pride through engagement in parks.

Kaid BenfieldKaid Benfield

Kaid Benfield is one of the nation’s foremost authorities on how to make cities, towns, and neighborhoods work better for both people and the environment.  Kaid serves as senior counsel for environmental strategies at PlaceMakers LLC and is the author of People Habitat: 25 Ways to Think about Greener, Healthier Cities.

People Habitat: Eight Ways to Think About Greener, Healthier Cities

Healthy parks require a healthy context – cities that are strong, environmentally sensitive, and attractive. But what are the key ingredients of green and healthy people habitat? Walkability helps, and so does thoughtful use of nature inside cities. Respect for community history and character is important, too. Ultimately, it comes down to creating and nurturing places that we can love: true sustainability is where the heart is.

Featured Session:


Connecting with Parks in Atlanta

Paul Morris, FASLA, President & CEO, Atlanta BeltLine, Inc.
Ed McBrayer, Executive Director, PATH Foundation
Nancy Rigby, President, Cox Foundations
Becky Katz, Chief Bicycle Officer, City of Atlanta
Join us as we open our conversation on “Connecting with Parks” with local leaders.  The Atlanta BeltLine, PATH and bicycles are shaping connections to parks and to each other.  Our featured speakers will share reflections on connectivity and its importance to future of our city.


Morning Breakout Sessions:


Doubling Up:  Innovative Parks Making the Most of Public Infrastructure and the Spaces In-between

Location: Day Hall

Connie Chung, Director, HR&A Advisors
Robert Rogers, Partner, Rogers Partners
Thomas Woltz, Principal, Nelson Byrd Woltz
Public and civic infrastructure such as highways, rail and power lines, and bridges provide essential services for the healthy functioning of urban life. With public space at a premium, infrastructure can also play double-duty, by creating new opportunities for previously-unimagined open spaces on top, underneath, and all around. This expert panel, featuring the team leading design and planning for Buckhead Park Over GA400, will explore the ways in which infrastructure is enabling new types of public space and multi-layered function, through examples from New York, Florida, Texas, California, and here in Atlanta.


From “Space” to “Place”: Successful Placemaking in Atlanta

Location: Mershon Hall

Stephen Causby, Mattie Freeland Coordinator, Friends of Mattie Freeland Park
Elena Madison, Urban Planner and Vice President, Project for Public Spaces
Wilma Sothern, Vice President of Marketing, Central Atlanta Progress
Suganthi Simon, Westside Program Officer, Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation
Project for Public Spaces will inspire you with the ideas and practice of “placemaking and the steps to bring about fundamental change in your community. This presentation highlights the collaborative process of “placemaking,” using park activation efforts at the heart of downtown Atlanta and Atlanta’s Westside as examples, and will illustrate how the resulting great public spaces can bring life, excitement, and a sense of belonging to a community.


A Rediscovery of Our Urban Waterfronts

Location: Georgia-Pacific Classroom

Debra Edelson, Executive Director, Emerald Corridor Foundation
Betsy Eggers, Board Chair, Peachtree Creek Greenway
Kimberly Estep, Executive Director, South Fork Conservancy
Jodi Mansbach, Chair, Chattahoochee NOW
Our region’s waterways are experiencing a renaissance as environmental groups, residents and developers see their potential to serve as natural pathways, linking communities, greenspaces and regions together. Learn about the struggles and successes of several local nonprofits who are working to transform neglected urban waterfronts into thriving natural habitats and build connections to the surrounding communities, creating vibrant gathering spaces throughout Georgia.


Greening Critical Infrastructure

Location: Gardenhouse Workshop

Dr. Kari Watkins, Professor, Georgia Institute of Technology
Nico Boyd, Masters Student, Georgia Institute of Technology
David Ederer, PhD Student, Georgia Institute of Technology
Prashanth Irudayaraj, Research Engineer, Georgia Institute of Technology
Leselle Vincent, Research Engineer, Georgia Institute of Technology
Diane Silva, Landscape Architect, The Trust for Public Land
We all know that parks are great places to meet with friends and neighbors, and that a great park has a positive impact on property values. But what are we missing? This panel will present research on the less obvious impacts of parks that make them critical infrastructure in urban environments: the successful uses of parks as green transportation corridors and the impact greenspace has on stormwater management, jobs and public health.


Emerging Trends in Connecting Parks and Health

Location: Turner Theater

Dee Merriam, Community Planner, Center for Disease Control
David Barth, PhD, President, Barth Associates
Rob Brawner, Executive Director, Atlanta BeltLine Partnership
Micah Lipscomb, Landscape Architect, Perkins+Will
The health benefits of parks and greenspaces are well-documented. As new research continues to strengthen the park/ health connection, emerging trends, such as public/private partnerships, are beginning to blur the lines between parks and health care facilities. This session focuses on how both public and private open spaces can be planned and designed to provide therapy, health, and wellness benefits, based on the latest findings from both practice and research.


Birds, Bees + Trees (walking tour)

Location: Meets in Hardin Visitor Center lobby

Adam Betuel, Director of Conservation, Atlanta Audubon Society
Melina Lozano Duran, Pollinator Garden Coordinator, Atlanta Botanical Garden
Brian Williams, Forest Restoration & Prairie Restoration Program Manager, Trees Atlanta
If you just want to take a moment and enjoy spring in Atlanta, join three scientists as they guide participants on a walking tour of our urban birds, bees and trees. These guides will highlight the amazing diversity of birds found in our urban parks, stretch your concept of bees and other pollinators in urban areas, and appreciate Atlanta’s urban forests.


Championing Connectivity & Relay, Atlanta’s Bike Share Program (leisurely bike ride)

Location: Meets in front of Mershon Hall

Ambar Johnson, Atlanta Bike Share Champion
James Tyler, Atlanta Bike Share Champion
Guides Ambar and James, Atlanta Bike Share Champions, are part of a new initiative on Atlanta’s westside to build a diverse base of bike share users. Participants on this tour will enjoy a leisurely ride (on Atlanta’s friendly blue bike share bikes!) through Piedmont Park while discussing their work as community and bike advocates. Grab a helmet and learn about how both parks and the bike share program have become essential elements of connectivity and community building. (Bikes and helmets provided by Relay Bike Share.)


Afternoon Breakout Sessions:


Government Powerhouse Panel on Connectivity

Location: Day Hall

Stephanie Stuckey Benfield, Chief Resilience Officer, City of Atlanta Office of Sustainability
Faye DiMassimo, Renew Atlanta Infrastructure Program General Manager, City of Atlanta Dept. of Public Works
Tim Keane, Commissioner, City of Atlanta Dept. of Planning & Community Development
Amy Phuong, Commissioner, City of Atlanta Dept. of Parks & Recreation
Kishia L. Powell, Commissioner, City of Atlanta Dept. of Watershed Management
Over the past year, leaders within the City of Atlanta have made great strides in breaking the silos that have kept departments isolated. These inspiring government leaders share stories of success and partnership as they have leveraged resources and expertise across departments. Come learn how the multiple benefits of parks, greenspace and trails are being integrated into stormwater management, transportation and an innovative approach to city-wide planning.


Realizing the Transformational Impact of Urban Trails: An Atlanta BeltLine Case Study

Location: Mershon Hall

Candace Damon, Vice Chairman, HR&A Advisors
James Alexander, Housing Policy and Development Director, Atlanta BeltLine, Inc.
Jerald Mitchell, Director of Economic Development, Atlanta BeltLine, Inc.
Stan Wall, Partner, HR&A Advisors
It’s well known that trails provide places for recreation, alternative modes of transportation, and access to nature.  In addition, for the last decade, policy makers have focused on the economic value trails create, principally by augmenting tourism and boosting surrounding real estate value. Increasing attention to equity has illuminated a key role that parks and trails can play in enabling balanced economic development and creating new spaces for affordable housing. This panel, featuring national experts in open space development and affordable housing, will highlight the Atlanta BeltLine as a case study of how trails can foster equitable economic growth. Panelists will discuss equity as the new measure of success for urban open spaces.


Socially Speaking: The Well-Being Benefits of Parks

Location: Georgia-Pacific Classroom

Na’Taki Osborne-Jelks, Board Chair, West Atlanta Watershed Alliance
Viniece Jennings, PhD, Research Scientist, USDA Forest Service
Audrey Peterman, Author and President & Co-Founder of Earthwise Productions, Inc.
A powerful link exists between greenspace and physical, emotional and spiritual well-being. And all demographic populations deserve equal access to these benefits. This session will explore the health benefits of parks and how thoughtful park programming and advocacy efforts can maximize benefits. The panel, composed of local and nationally recognized speakers, will also discuss strategies to increase minority and underserved community access to greenspace.


Tricky by Nature: Overcoming the Challenges of Where Parks Meet Trail Development

Location: Gardenhouse Workshop

Andrew Lindsay, President, Astra Group
Allen Eison, Vice President of Operations, Astra
Marcie Moore, Manager of Greenways Program, Gwinnett County Government
Pete Pelligrini, Project Manager, PATH Foundation
Lauren Standish, Principal-in-Charge, HGOR


Three Parks & Their Places within History

Location: Turner Theater

Neale Nickels, Director of Preservation, Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation
Christi Jackson, CEO, Conservancy at Historic Washington Park
Nancy Love, Chair, Friends of Frazier-Rowe Park
David Moore, Executive Director, Historic Oakland Foundation
Parks have taken many forms throughout history — pastoral places for restorative promenades, places of remembrance and memorial, and places for active play and family gatherings. This talk will look at the roles that local parks have played to bridge social, economic and racial divides. Panelists will also discuss how expectations of parks have changed over time and highlight the roles that parks continue to play today as connectors within communities.


Learning to ConnectParks are classrooms! (walking tour)

Location: Meets in Hardin Visitor Center lobby

Eli Dickerson, Ecologist, Fernbank Museum of Natural History
Bob Sargent, Mentor Advisory Board of Race 4 Birds Foundation
Jason Urroz, Project Director, Kids in Parks
Parks are capable of introducing students to the natural world and providing places to connect to nature. Of course we can enjoy our local parks informally, but park programming provides specific ways to engage and learn. Join three seasoned environmental educators as they demonstrate a range of park programming that highlights the richness of urban ecosystems. This walking tour will give participants a chance to experience the latest ideas in environmental education and see if it might be right for your park!


Championing Connectivity & Relay, Atlanta’s Bike Share Program (leisurely bike ride)

Location: Meets in front of Mershon Hall

Ambar Johnson, Atlanta Bike Share Champion
James Tyler, Atlanta Bike Share Champion
Guides Ambar and James, Atlanta Bike Share Champions, are part of a new initiative on Atlanta’s westside to build a diverse base of bike share users. Participants on this tour will enjoy a leisurely ride (on Atlanta’s friendly blue bike share bikes!) through Piedmont Park while discussing their work as community and bike advocates. Grab a helmet and learn about how both parks and the bike share program have become essential elements of connectivity and community building. (Bikes and helmets provided by Relay Bike Share.)





Pre-Conference Connectivity Tours

In conjunction with the Parks and Greenspace Conference, Park Pride is hosting tours on the theme, "Connecting with Parks." We hope you'll join us to see connectivity in action!

Park Ride: Connectivity on Atlanta’s Eastside

Date: Saturday, March 25, 2017
Location: The tour will begin and end outside the main gates of Oakland Cemetery (238 Oakland Ave, SE, Atlanta, GA 30312)
Time: 9:00 A.M. – 11:30 A.M.
Cost: $10

Jump on your bike and join Park Pride on this guided bike tour to explore the communities along Memorial Drive, an industrial area that is evolving into a diverse mixed-use urban corridor. Learn from planners, park advocates and local residents about how they’re working to create a walking and biking network across the communities by connecting greenspace and amenities.

  Learn More & Register

The Roswell Connection

Date: Sunday, March 26, 2017
Location: The tour will begin and end in the Candler Park Parking Lot (1500 McLendon Ave NE, Atlanta, GA 30307)
Time: 1:00 P.M. – 4:00 P.M.
Cost: $15

The City of Roswell is taking improving the quality of life of their residents seriously. They recognize that citizens are yearning for great, walkable, bikeable and accessible communities. Join this walking tour to see two examples of how Roswell is responding to their citizens’ needs with the new River Walk and the Big Creek Greenway.

  Learn More & Register

CEU Credits

Credits for Registered Landscape Architects

Continuing Education Unit (CEU) credits are available for Landscape Architects registered in Georgia. 

In order to receive a certificate for CEU credits, Registered Landscape Architects must do all of the following:

  • Register for the Parks and Greenspace Conference AND check “Yes” you are interested in receiving CEU credits on the registration form;
  • Sign-in at the “ASLA CEU Credits” registration table at the conference on March 27st before 8:30am in the Hardin Visitor Center at Atlanta Botanical Garden; and
  • Sign-out at the “ASLA CEU Credits” registration table after 12pm for 2 credit hours, or after 5pm for 4 credit hours.

2017 Conference Sponsors

Presenting Sponsor

Cox Conserves

Community Building Sponsor

The Home Depot Foundation

Venue Sponsor

Atlanta Botanical Garden

Gold Sponsor

Ed Castro Landscape
HR&A Advisors
The Conservation Fund
The Trust for Public Land

Silver Sponsor

Georgia ASLA
Astra Group
Jones Day
Perez Planning + Design, LLC
Playground Creations
Playworld Preferred
Pond & Company


Batdorf & Bronson
City of Decatur
Georgia Forestry Commission
KAIZEN Collaborative
Metro ATL Urban Watershed Initiative
Perkins + Will