Park Pride’s 2024 Inspiration Award Winners

Great parks exist through the efforts of leaders who nurture the bond between parks and communities. Through Park Pride’s Annual Inspiration Awards, we honor these local leaders. 

We are proud to recognize community leaders who inspire others to expand and improve public parks and greenspaces and work to raise awareness about the power of parks so all communities have places to gather, play, reenergize, reflect on our history, and participate in creating a shared future.  

Please help us congratulate the 2024 Inspiration Award winners!

Brenda Busby, FrazierRowe Park 

For Brenda Busby, her hard work in DeKalb County’s Frazier-Rowe Park is affirmed by the neighbors who visit and love the park. Frazier-Rowe is a nine-acre, wooded park in DeKalb County, which she describes as a place that “offers a slower pace to embrace nature” – whether that’s exploring the forest, admiring the plants, walking your dog or bringing kids to play on the playground. 

Frazier-Rowe features several gardens, and some of Brenda’s favorite memories include watching young people learn about the wonders of plants and, as she put it, “to see their face when they realize their efforts have helped their park be a special place in the community.” She recalls a small child who asked to help plant some daffodils in the park. Later that weekend, he came back to the park with his Dad to show off his handiwork, and his pride was evident. 

Similarly, a few years ago, a group of Girl Scouts planted a Zoo Garden in the park, which includes plants that all have animal names, like Lamb’s Ear. The Girl Scouts planned and organized this project, and even won the Bronze Award for their hard work. 

Moments like this are truly impactful and valuable for Brenda. 

For those wanting to get involved with their neighborhood park, Brenda says, “Everyone can make a difference. You only need to be willing to help and look for those things that you can do.  Folks are willing to teach you.  Together, you can do so much good for your park and your community – it will amaze you at what can be done.” 

Thank you, Brenda, for your hard work and dedication at Frazier-Rowe Park!

 

Christi Jackson, Washington Park

Christi Jackson’s connection to Historic Washington Park spans nearly her entire life. She fondly remembers her trips there as a child, sitting on the swings with her Dad, and, as an adult, she has dedicated herself to serving and advocating for Washington Park. While her role at the park has changed, her love for it has not. 

Christi describes the park as the centerpiece of the Washington Park community. Established in 1919, this was the first public greenspace created for African American citizens in Atlanta and Georgia and was part of the first planned Black suburb in Atlanta, developed by businessman Heman E Perry.  

Christi believes that the group’s biggest accomplishment was completing the 2015 Washington Park Neighborhood Visioning. For her personally, the greatest accomplishment was unveiling the marker for social activist and community organizer Lugenia Burns Hope. 

When asked about the power of parks, Christi said, “Parks have the ability to create opportunity through recreation, education and proximity to nature. Filling in the blank canvas and giving birth to the final product requires community care.” 

One mantra that’s kept Christi going is, “Do the Work! It is the only thing that matters,” by Dr. Pearlie Craft Dove. Christi has certainly done the work.  

Thank you, Christi, for your dedication to Historic Washington Park!

 

Pat Reynolds, Zonolite Park and Orme Park 

Pat Reynolds loves parks so much that she couldn’t pick just one.  She has been volunteering at DeKalb County’s Zonolite Park for over five years and for nearly a year at Orme Park in Atlanta.

In both parks, she has been working with Friends of the Park groups to foster a healthy and diverse ecosystem by removing invasive plants and replacing them with natives. Thanks to these efforts, Pat has seen both parks evolve.  Where invasive plants once dominated these spaces, diverse landscapes with hundreds of native trees, shrubs and plants have now taken root. 

When asked about the characteristics of the parks that we need now, Pat describes them as a space that provides “joy, amazement, recreation and relaxation.” Equally as important, she added, is a healthy habitat that benefits the animals and insects who call the park home. She aims to balance these two goals, saying, “You don’t have to choose between a visitor-dominated park and an ecological landscape that benefits insects, birds, and animals.  These two objectives can exist together for the benefit of everybody.”   

Thank you, Pat, for your hard work and dedication!

 

Gwendolyn Stegall, Hairston Park

“You shouldn’t have to leave your neighborhood to enjoy something nice.” That’s been Gwendolyn Stegall’s mantra throughout her time working at Hairston Park in DeKalb County. 

Hairston Park is a 33-acre park that features natural and recreational amenities, including two lakes, a bubbling creek, trails, a Serenity Garden and a wetlands area that’s soon to be certified as a Wildlife Sanctuary, along with a playground, fitness equipment and a pavilion. Gwen describes it as “a cherished community resource for relaxation, education and connecting with nature.” 

Gwen dreams big and envisions eventually adding a variety of elements to the park, including a dog park, restrooms, regular stocking of the lakes for anglers and more.  

For those looking to make a difference in their park, Gwen recommends connecting with the community, including the Friends of the Park groups, partner organizations, churches and schools. She added, “Don’t forget to pack your patience and share a smile.” 

We can all agree that parks and greenspaces play an important role within our community, and Gwen put it perfectly when she said, “As we invest in our parks, we invest in the heart of our neighborhoods.” 

Thank you, Gwen, for your work at Hairston Park!

 

Dr. Yomi Noibi, ECOAction and Four Corners Park

Dr. Yomi Noibi may have retired, but that doesn’t mean he’s done showing up and doing the work. 

Over the past 2 decades, Dr. Yomi – Former Executive Director of Environmental Community Action, also known as ECO-Action – has collaborated with many community groups and individuals to create parks and natural areas in Fulton and DeKalb Counties and in Georgia. His current park project is Peoplestown’s Four Corners Park. 

Throughout his time working in the parks and greenspace sector, Dr. Yomi sees his greatest accomplishments as: 

  1. Playing a role through ECO-Action to facilitate community engagement in the development of several Atlanta parks through collaboration with Park Pride, the Conservation Fund, Trust for Public Land, and American Rivers. 
  2. Successfully advocating for stormwater management parks to reduce flooding and public health risks and to improve in-stream water quality and quality of life for downstream communities. 
  3. Working with the Peoplestown community and partners through ECO-Action to address flooding issues and to help improve Four Corners Park. 

Established in 1970, Four Corners Park houses a community garden, the nonprofit Rick McDevitt Youth Center, a self-funded youth program called the Dream Builders of Atlanta, and the Peoplestown Revitalization Corporation.  

Dr. Yomi sees the park as a living community resource where residents go to learn, relax, recreate, initiate and build friendships, and share agape love. He added, “Seeds of intergenerational family connectivity and learning for climate and environmental justice are growing at the Four Corners Park. I love the energy in the park and the people.” 

The Friends group recently completed a Park Visioning plan with Park Pride, and residents are looking forward to a stronger and greener park that will reflect their humanity, family, spirit, and love for one another. 

Dr. Yomi’s advice for those wanting to make a difference in their park is this:  

  • Be humble 
  • Listen to understand, not respond 
  • Develop an attitude of collaboration and partnership 
  • Respect and love the community you serve 
  • Lastly, remember that accountability begins with you

Thank you, Dr. Yomi, for your dedicated efforts over the last two decades!

 

Jack White, John C. Howell Park

Jack White tries to avoid being on lists, but this one delights him.  

During his time working at John C. Howell Park, Jack and the Friends group have put a lot of effort into streambank restoration. Compromised riparian corridors can be found in some of our parks, with the banks being eroded by too much stormwater, along with excess sediment and nutrient levels that make survival difficult for macroinvertebrates.   

This cause is important to him because, as he puts it, “many of our parks owe their very existence to waterways that, decades ago, limited development. Streams are also often the sole unbreakable connection between very different neighborhoods.” 

Throughout this journey, Jack and the Friends group have partnered with talented planners and scientists including Walter Bland, a horticulturist who grew many of the native grasses that can be seen on the Beltline; Peter Frawley, who designed two local parks; and David Deschant, an exemplary and humorous arborist who did a very informative tree survey.  

Jack’s involvement and efforts within Atlanta’s parks spans several decades and, as he continues his work, he hopes for more opportunities to connect with other advocates and local officials. 

Jack told Park Pride that he greatly respected every previous Inspiration Award winner he has met, saying, “their dedication and determination is remarkable.” He also added, “I appreciated all the kind sentiments that were expressed about me – a few of which might even be accurate – and I thank everyone, especially the Park Pride staff.” 

Thank you, Jack, for your hard work and dedication to Atlanta’s parks over the years!


Click here to read about the 2023 Inspiration Award winners!

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