Say hello to Sabina Kasumova, Park Pride’s Public Engagement Specialist!
Sabina joined the team in early 2020, specifically to support the public engagement strategy for ActivateATL: Recreation and Parks for All, the City of Atlanta’s 10-year comprehensive plan for parks and rec. Her expertise and enthusiasm has resulted in the most successful engagement effort that the City has ever executed, reaching more residents and soliciting more feedback than any plan previously undertaken!
We’re thrilled to have her on board. Learn more about Sabina through our mini-interview below.
Why are parks important?
Parks are important because they tie the fabric of the community together by providing a space that anyone can access to enjoy, where we can all come together to feel connected with nature and one another (from a safe distance). The mental health benefits that parks provide has never been more important. Parks are also critical for the environmental benefits they provide, such as helping to reduce urban heat island effect, manage stormwater, sequester carbon, and more.
Park Pride’s mission is “to engage communities to activate the power of parks.” What does the “power of parks” mean to you?
To me, the power of parks means the potential that each park holds for instilling change within the community. Sports, marathons, public arts, rallies, festivals, charitable events – all these activities create a space where knowledge can be shared, and awareness can be raised for causes that hold importance to the community. Beyond the mental health and environmental benefits of urban greenspaces, parks also provide the venue for community initiatives.
Why is it important for communities to have a voice in their parks?
It is important for communities to have a voice in their parks and recreation because we should all play a role in how our community is shaped. Parks and recreation intends to address community needs, and that means we need to hear from all members of the community! The most effective change happens when everyone takes a seat at the table to raise their voice about what matters to them. We all have the power to make change in our community, and the first step is always just to start talking about the things that matter to you.
What’s your best tip for making virtual public meetings fun and exciting?
Live polling helps to make us all feel like we are all in a room together, even virtually! Text message accessible live polling is such an easy and fun way to connect with the discussion topic and speakers. When you can text in one-word answers to form a word cloud or text in a short comment that you see appear on the screen live, it helps to reinforce the connection and sense of being heard in this new environment where you can’t speak up as easily.
How have parks / nature helped you cope during the COVID-19 pandemic?
Spending time in nature has been crucial to my mental health during the COVID-19 pandemic. When so many indoor activities no longer feel as safe; it has been incredibly comforting to know that you can always look forward to an evening stroll through your local greenspace or visit with a friend (from a safe distance) in your local park. If parks were not available as safe gathering spaces for the community, I don’t know where else I would have gone to relax and enjoy free time.
What is your favorite park activity?
Reading a good book, relaxing on a blanket, with a picnic to last you for hours!
What is your favorite local park
My favorite local park is Kirkwood Urban Forest, because I live right around the corner – one of the best parts about Atlanta is the many urban greenspaces. I can take a few steps and remove myself from the busy city street, to feel that I have been transported to a far-away forest in a matter of seconds. What could be better?