Kayla Altland: Communities Activate the Power of Parks

Kayla Altland was recently promoted to Program Manager, Community Building, and is excited to take on the new role, which will consist of providing support to the Friends of the Park groups in Atlanta, Brookhaven, Tucker, and DeKalb County.

Prior to moving to Georgia, Kayla worked for the Delaware & Hudson Canal Historical Society as the Deputy Director for Administration in the Hudson Valley region of New York. Kayla also worked with the National Park Service (NPS) for almost five years in New York, Kansas, and Colorado, working closely with their partner organizations and community members to develop an internship program for local high school and college students, as well as lead education outreach efforts.

“​Park Pride does not activate the power of parks, communities do. We provide resources and support to help propel them forward.” ~ Kayla Altland

When Kayla is not working with Friends of the Park groups, she likes to visit museums, go hiking, find amazing inexpensive restaurants, and attempt a variety of crafts.  For Kayla, having a comfortable place on the grass to lay out a blanket and read in the shade is an important feature in parks.

We sat down with Kayla to talk all things park:


Why are parks important?

Parks provide a connection to nature, an opportunity for life-long learning, and a community gathering space that is accessible to all people. Growing up in a small town in Pennsylvania with a park only a quarter mile from my house with mountains and farms in all directions, I spent a lot of my childhood exploring the woods and playing at the park near my house. The adventures I experienced in these places informed my desire to be an environmental steward and advocate for access to nature for all people. Parks are public spaces that promote health through access to nature, build community relationships, and encourage local democracy

Park Pride’s mission is “to engage communities to activate the power of parks.” In what ways are parks powerful?

Parks are powerful because they are a part of our sense of place and play a role in developing individual and community identity. My background is in archaeology and history; heritage, cultural landscapes, and the relationship of people to the places they live are elements which I try to use in the work I do. A sense of place is important in individual development and helps us to establish an identity through where we are from and the connection with the people with whom we share that place. As a space outside of work and the home, parks have the potential to build community connections and breakdown social barriers.

Why is it important for communities to have a voice in their parks?

​They own them! The government is tasked with managing the land for the people. If the people don’t speak up, the land manager won’t be able to make decisions regarding the park that reflect what the communities want and need. Seeing your voice incorporated into your local park is a visible, close-to-home way for people to see impacts of community and civic engagement. Sharing your voice and improving parks allows people to practice democracy on a micro-level. Community engagement in parks illustrates the quote by Margaret Mead, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

What are you most excited about with your new position?

During my time at Park Pride, I’ve enjoyed meeting  new people, both on staff and in the community.  I most look forward to playing a larger role in connecting Friends groups across the network and crafting valuable learning opportunities for our communities.

Now for some fun questions. What’s your favorite movie?

You’ve Got Mail.

Tea or coffee?

Too much coffee.

Do you collect anything?

Notebooks and colorful writing instruments!

 

Congratulations, Kayla on your promotion!

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