2014 Parks and Greenspace Conference Recap

On March 31st, Park Pride held the Annual Parks and Greenspace Conference at the Atlanta Botanical Garden. Enough cannot be said about this year’s conference – over 400 community advocates and professionals turned out at the gardens, making this conference the largest and most successful in Park Pride’s history.

One reason for this year’s success is the conference’s extremely relevant topic, Pipes to Parks: Creating Greenspace with Rainwater, focused on green infrastructure. On average, Atlanta receives 50 inches of rainfall yearly. In 2013, however, that much rain fell in the *first eight months* and the year finished at over 66 inches of rain. 2013 was the fifth wettest year on record!

At the same time, continued land development is increasing runoff and creating a greater demand on our over-taxed stormwater systems. Pipes to Parks drilled into the incorporation of water management practices for the improvement of existing parks as well as the creation of new parks.

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What exactly IS green infrastructure (G.I.)?

Great question! It’s defined as “Sustainable and natural management techniques that harvest, treat and utilize stormwater runoff in greenspaces such as parks, diverting water away from and reducing a need for traditional ‘gray’ infrastructure (i.e., sewers and drainage pipes).

blog3As Historic Fourth Ward Park demonstrates, green infrastructure  provides cost effective and elegant solutions to large scale stormwater issues that also provide the added benefit of an amazing world-class park! Natural stormwater management strategies have been implemented at Lake Claire Park, New Highland Park, Adair Park, and Peachtree Hills Park among others.

At varying scales, green infrastructure solutions offer greater benefits for our communities than traditional graywater solutions. The Parks and Greenspace Conference presenters spoke to the economic benefits of green infrastructure and employment opportunities created by projects incorporating G.I.’s methods. We heard about how combined sewer overflows and stormwater management challenges have been leveraged as opportunities for parks and greenspaces.

blog4We heard from Brad Lancaster on how to harvest water for FREE and turn flood water into irrigation water. We even saw his bun-dance 🙂

We saw green infrastructure in action during the Piedmont Park walking tour and the other tours leading up to the conference (see photos from Sugar Creek Garden and the Proctor Creek Watershed tours).

We heard from water management experts from all across the USA – from Philly to Milwaukee and New Orleans to Cleveland.

We discussed the partnerships necessary to have green infrastructure solutions implemented, and how stakeholders can layer funding sources for green infrastructure projects.

We also focused on the impaired Proctor Creek Watershed and the blight it’s created in the surrounding communities, and how three nonprofits are making progress to address the watershed’s serious issues by utilizing green infrastructure strategies.

Proctor CreekYou can see the complete program with descriptions from each session on our website.

We also took advantage of the Parks and Greenspace Conference to honor the 2014 Inspiration Award Winners.

It doesn’t need to be said, but the day was PACKED of good info and great greenspace networking!

People are talking about Pipes to Parks: Creating Greenspace with Rainwater:

  • I walked away with a strong sense of community.  Our commonalities are much greater than the things that divide us.” ~ Michael Halicki, Park Pride Executive Director
  • “It was really driven home to me that water conservation and management is everyone’s responsibility. This includes governments to communities, tundra residents to desert residents and all those in between.” ~ Marlina McKay, Park Pride Manager of IT
  • “I always enjoy the broad range of backgrounds that gather at the conference. Designers, interested citizens, and municipalities.” ~ Attendee
  • “The conference had excellent content and the theme was very on point, especially with what is happening in Atlanta.” ~ Attendee

It Doesn’t End Here …

Spring has sprung, and that means Atlanta is well into the rainy season – let’s not forget about all the great take-aways from the conference! Park Pride will be focusing on green infrastructure all year through our continued efforts to restore the Proctor Creek Watershed as well as through a series of FIVE green infrastructure tours! Click on the links below for more information about each tour.

blog5May 10 – McDaniel Branch Stormwater Restoration Tour

June 14 – Clyde Shepherd Nature Preserve and Mason Mill Park Waterworks Tour

July 19 – E.L. Hughie Constructed Treatment Wetlands Tour

August 16 – Columbus Riverfront Tour

September 6 – Proctor Creek Watershed Tour

Save the Date

We’re already gearing up for the 2015 Parks and Greenspace Conference, and you won’t want to miss it! Mark your calendars for Monday, March 23rd at the Atlanta Botanical Garden! Topic announcement coming soon 🙂

Thank You Sponsors!

None of this would have been possible without the support of our conference sponsors! Special gratitude to Cox Conserves for being our Presenting Sponsor, not only for the Parks and Greenspace Conference but for our 25th Anniversary!

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