Each year, Park Pride hosts the annual Parks & Greenspace Conference, the largest parks conference in the southeast, showcasing thought leaders from Atlanta and across the nation. Through education and inspiration, the conference focuses on best practices for companies and individuals who are united by a common desire to improve parks and strengthen communities.
The Healing Power of Parks
The past few years have affirmed the importance of parks for our physical and mental well-being. The healing power of parks, however, goes beyond personal health. Public greenspaces are also where community bonds are formed, diverse ideas are experienced, and where cultural enrichment flourishes.
We also look to parks to heal and strengthen the urban environment—to manage stormwater, reduce flooding, cool and filter the air, and provide natural habitat.
A strong park system has the capacity to fulfill all these roles, creating resilient urban ecosystems while offering the personal health and community benefits we seek. In this way, parks are a natural healthcare system, ensuring cities and inhabitants thrive long into the future.
Join us at the 2023 Parks & Greenspace Conference, where we will discuss all this and more while exploring The Healing Power of Parks.
Connect to the Theme
The conference program—consisting of keynotes, panels, workshops/demonstrations, and outdoor presentations—led by both local and national experts, will examine The Healing Power of Parks through discussions pertaining to:
- Parks + Health
- Parks + Ecological Health
- Parks + Social Healing
- A Healthy Park System
Who Should Attend
With over 450 attendees, The Parks & Greenspace Conference is a wonderful environment for networking with elected officials, community leaders, and park advocates who are driven to improve parks and strengthen communities. The program offers something for everyone!
- Parks & recreation professionals
- Government policy makers
- Architects & landscape architects
- Urban planners
- Citizens who want to build or improve a neighborhood park
- Environmental & civil engineers
- Real estate developers
- Environmental lawyers
- Anyone who loves parks!
Jha D Amazi
Principal, MASS Design Group
Jha D Amazi is a Principal at MASS Design Group, and the Director of the Public Memory and Memorials Lab (PMML). The PMML is an initiative that advances research, training, and built work around a central thesis: spatializing memory can heal us and inspire collective action for generations to come. At MASS, Amazi has contributed to the Gun Violence Memorial Project, Franklin Park Action Plan, and the Louise B. Miller Memorial and Freedom Garden at Gallaudet University. Previously, she worked as a Designer at Sasaki Associates. She received her Bachelor of Science in Architecture from Northeastern University and her Master of Architecture I from the University of Pennsylvania.
Howard Frumkin, MD
Senior Vice President, Trust for Public Land
Dr. Frumkin is an internist, environmental and occupational medicine specialist, epidemiologist, and author (including Planetary Health: Protecting Nature to Protect Ourselves and Making Healthy Places: A Built Environment for Health, Well-Being, and Sustainability). Currently, he is serving as Senior Vice President with the Trust for Public Land and Professor Emeritus of Environmental and Occupational Health Sciences at the University of Washington School of Public Health (where he served as Dean from 2010-2016) From 2018-2019, he led the “Our Planet, Our Health” initiative at the Wellcome Trust in London. His research interests include public health and the built environment, climate change, and nature contact, and he loves cycling, kayaking, and hiking.
Seth Clark & Tracie Revis, MHR, JD
Ocmulgee National Park and Preserve Initiative
As Executive Director of the Ocmulgee National Park and Preserve Initiative, Seth Clark is passionate about teaching others to appreciate and conserve the lands that make up the beautiful Ocmulgee corridor. He also currently serves as the Mayor Pro Tempore of Macon, Georgia. Before serving on the Macon-Bibb County Commission, Clark worked with numerous state and federal elected officials, candidates, and civic groups on solutions for poverty, conservation, inequality, job training, and higher education access. He’s an avid outdoorsman, which he likes to enjoy with his wife and son.
Tracie Revis, MHR, JD
Director of Advocacy
Tracie Revis has dedicated her career to serving Indian Country. Prior to her current role, she was Chief of Staff for Principal Chief, David Hill at the Muscogee (Creek) Nation in Oklahoma (the first female to fill this role). During her time at the Nation, she also served as the Acting Tribal Administrator and the briefly as the Acting Secretary of Housing. She received a Juris Doctorate from the University of Kansas, School of Law; where she also participated in and received her Tribal Law Certificate. She is Yuchi and Muscogee, is of the wolf clan, and belongs to the Polecat ceremonial ground, where she participates in her traditional culture. Revis loves adventure and exploring new places with her dog, Molly Rose.
7:30 a.m. – Check-In Opens/Coffee + Networking
8:30 a.m. – Opening Plenary Session
Special Park Pride Announcement
Parks: The Public Health Superpower Hiding in Plain Sight (KEYNOTE)
If we had a pill that delivered as many health benefits as parks, we’d all be taking that pill every day. Parks directly improve both mental health and physical health. They also improve health in indirect ways, such as by strengthening social connections and building resilience to climate-related disasters. Many insights about the power of parks are ancient—but in recent years, scientific advances have greatly deepened our understanding. Like many public health assets, park benefits are not equitably distributed; park equity is a pathway to health equity. This presentation will survey the many ways in which parks deliver health, well-being, and thriving, drawing on the latest science, address crucial equity considerations, and propose some paths forward for park professionals, park advocates, health professionals, and communities.
- Dr. Howard Frumkin, Senior Vice President, Trust for Public Land
9:55 a.m. – Networking Break
10:20 a.m. – Morning Breakout Sessions:
Healing Parks through Invasive Plant Management
Parks are among the few places in cities where natural ecosystems can thrive. However, the presence of invasive plant species threatens the delicate balance of life found there. Using local case studies including the Fernbank Forest and Riverwalk Atlanta, attendees at this session will learn low-impact methods for invasive plant removal, tips for landscape assessment, and how to tackle regenerative projects in their local park or greenspace.
- Eli Dickerson, Director of Education, Park Pride (Moderator)
- Michael Hudgins, Founder of Woods Keeper
- Tea Povolny, Founder of EcoLogic
Memorializing the Hidden History of Atlanta’s Parks
Every park has a story, as well as a history that provides insight into a city’s social fabric. This session will present the hidden history of Atlanta’s parks, focusing on the displacement of Indigenous and Black people. Speakers will discuss how parks are used today, by whom, and what efforts (if any) have been made to memorialize the forgotten past. Attendees will learn how intentional park planning can be restorative and commemorative in the healing process for the descendants that still walk this land.
- Victoria Lemos, Historian and podcast producer at Archive Atlanta
- Ann Hill Bond, Journalist with Atlanta Voice News and Preservationist with Fulton County Remembrance Coalition
Technology + Nature: A New Collaboration to Fortify the City in the Forest
Technology and nature come together in a collaborative study at the Blue Heron Nature Preserve to protect Atlanta’s tree canopy and fortify urban resilience. Attendees will explore the benefits of embracing technology in the creation of strategic plans and learn about the use of drones and apps to collect data, benchmark the health of ecosystems, and monitor climate change impacts on watersheds, heat islands, and tree canopy.
- Denise Cardin, Director of Conservation and Operations at Blue Heron Nature Preserve
- Javier Irizarry, Professor and Director of CONECTech Lab at Georgia Tech
- Taryn Heidel, Senior Arborist, City of Atlanta
- Melody Harclerode, FAIA, Executive Director at Blue Heron Nature Preserve
Guided Walk…with a Doc!
Walk with Garden grounds with leaders and members of the Clarkston Walk with a Doc chapter to learn about this nationwide program that pairs physicians with community walking groups. Hear from both physicians and participants about the successes of the program to improve the whole body and health of individuals. Attendees will also learn how to find an existing group or start a new group in your community.
- Roberta Malavenda, Executive Director, CDF Action & Walk with a Doc
- Saria Hassan, MD, Emory University, Walk with a Doc
Storytelling: Educating, Healing and Deepening Our Connection to Place
Storytelling and eco-memoirs connect people with their environment in ways that are visceral and informative, inspiring action on behalf of nature. This session with renowned environmentalists and authors will offer lively conversation, insights, and lessons learned from the speakers’ personal and powerful experiences with the Chattahoochee and Flint Rivers, and nature near and far.
- Sally Bethea, Retired Riverkeeper and ED at Chattahoochee Riverkeeper
- Hannah Palmer, Writer and Urban Designer, Finding the Flint (moderator)
- David Haskell, Writer and Professor at University of the South, Sewanee
Healing Experiences in Nature
The health benefits of parks are real. Panelists will discuss how purposeful visits to nature helped them expand and explore new lifelong healthy living practices. Attendees will learn how an engagement in outdoor activities—including simply sitting outdoors absorbing vitamin D, walking to improve fitness, and establishing social connections—builds an appreciation for nature that contributes to healing, physical fitness, and emotional well-being.
- Carolyn Hartfield, Outdoor Adventure Leader, Hartfield’s Hikers
- Theresa Hall, Travel Advisor, Travel Buddies- Atlanta
- James “JB” Bailey, Caregiver, Massage Therapist and Retired Nurse, Hartfield’s Hikers
- Karen Lindauer, Hartfield’s Hikers
Rising to the Challenge of Reinvention: A Discussion with Citywide Parks Nonprofits
Over the past few years, the pandemic and social justice movements like Black Lives Matter have brought greater attention – both positive and negative – to the role of parks in cities. At the start of the pandemic, local parks were places of solace for residents confined to their homes. As restrictions were loosened, park use expanded in new and interesting ways; but at the same time, staffing shortages and supply chain issues have hindered park maintenance and development efforts, resulting in increased trash, broken infrastructure, and delays and cost increases in park construction projects. Hear how three citywide park non-profits in Atlanta, Baltimore, and Austin have risen to the challenge of reinvention as they redefine their roles as the connective tissue of the urban parks movement in the cities they serve.
- Charlie McCabe, Charlie McCabe Consulting LLC (Moderator)
- Michael Halicki, Executive Director, Park Pride
- Dr. Franklin Lance, President & CEO, Parks & People Foundation, Baltimore, MD
- Colin Wallis, CEO of Austin Parks Foundation, Austin, TX
11:20 a.m. – Lunch
12:30 p.m. – Mid-Day Plenary Session
2023 Inspiration Awards
Reconciliation through Partnership: Creating Georgia’s First National Park and Preserve (KEYNOTE)
The Ocmulgee National Park and Preserve Initiative is a tribal, non-tribal partnership that advocates to create Georgia’s first National Park and Preserve. Tracie Revis, a Muscogee (Creek) Citizen and Seth Clark, a middle Georgia native, will discuss their efforts to create a National Park and Preserve that will be co-managed by the National Park Service and the Muscogee (Creek) Nation. Tracie and Seth will also describe how the partnership between the middle Georgia community and the Muscogee (Creek) Nation offers avenues for reconciliation and healing for the region and is seen as a national model for tribal/non-tribal partnerships.
- Seth Clark, Executive Director, Ocmulgee National Park and Preserve Initiative
- Tracie Revis, Director of Advocacy, Ocmulgee National Park and Preserve Initiative
Park Pride Program Announcement
2:00 p.m. – Networking Break
2:30 p.m. – Afternoon Breakout Sessions
Grant Park: Whose Park is it Anyway?
During this candid panel discussion, speakers will explore park equity and access through the lens of Grant Park’s complicated past. Topics will include the history of segregation in Atlanta’s parks, the debate over Civil War/Confederate monuments in public spaces, atrocities carried out in park spaces including the Westside Park and the recently acquired Chattahoochee Brick Factory site, and parks named after White men who perpetrated violence against the Black community.
- Jason Winston, Atlanta City Councilmember, District 1
- Douglas Blackmon, Author and Professor, Georgia State University
- Michelle Blackmon, Executive Director, Grant Park Conservancy
- Shalya Forte, Senior Director, SXM Media, DE&I Business Partner
The Black River: South Carolina’s Newest State Park
The Black River water trail will become South Carolina’s newest state park. This 70-mile corridor will connect a network of riverside properties owned by public and private partners along the Black River, allowing visitors to paddle through South Carolina’s low country. Running through Williamsburg and Georgetown County, the river flows through a historically underserved community that is rich in culture and history. Learn how the project team engaged local residents to design a park that provides multiple benefits, including flood mitigation, historic preservation, and social justice.
- Holley Owings, PLA, Principal with Earth Design
- Maria Whitehead, PhD, Senior Director of Land, Southeast with Open Space Institute
- James Revis, Regional Chief, Upper Coast with South Carolina Department of Parks, Recreation & Tourism
- Mayor Frank McClary, Mayor, Town of Andrews, SC
Finding Healing in the Forest at Any Age
During this panel discussion, speakers will discuss the various forest-based programing offered by the West Atlanta Watershed Alliance to encourage multi-generational healing. From nature play, to agroforestry and increasing access to fresh food, to wellness programing, the healing benefits of parks are accessible to all ages (as attendees will hear from a youth panelist!).
- Anamarie Ngala-Bey, Environmental Education Programs Manager, West Atlanta Watershed Alliance (moderator)
- Janelle Wright, Project Manager/Food Distribution/Eldercare with Outdoor Activity Center and NPU-S
- Hanifah Shoatz-Bey, Traditional Midwifery Advocate
- Asim Hill, Student and O-Academy youth at Outdoor Activity Center
Giving “The Butterfly” New Wings: Creating Community Parks in Baltimore’s “Black Butterfly”
In 2016, Parks & People, along with the State of Maryland and the City of Baltimore, began engaging communities within a region known as the “Black Butterfly,” low-income, majority Black neighborhoods that make up large swaths of the east and west halves of the city. Learn how this partnership has transformed vacant homes and vacant lots in these areas into new parks, instilling pride, reducing health and environmental disparities, and restoring a sense of community.
- Steven Preston, Park Design and Construction Manager, Parks & People, Baltimore, MD (moderator)
- Larry Brown, Jr., Assistant Director, Baltimore Lead, Maryland Dept. of Housing and Community Development
- Dr. Franklin Lance, President & CEO, Parks & People, Baltimore, MD
- Laura Connelly, Environmental Park Projects Manager, Parks & People, Baltimore, MD
Guided Walk: Bringing Mindfulness to Birdwatching
Stretch your legs and experience the healing power of parks with a guided walk through the Atlanta Botanical Garden. Attendees will learn accessible methods of mindfulness that can be used while birding, gardening, or enjoying any park or greenspace.
- Alex LoCastro, Conservation Program Coordinator, Georgia Audubon
- Sheridan Alford, Community Engagement Manager, Georgia Audubon (moderator)
- Kiana Leveritte, Community Outreach Coordinator, Georgia Audubon
Policy Talk: Prioritizing Greenspace Equity in Atlanta
Atlanta is a different city than it was three years ago, and compounding challenges—including persistent public health crises, the impacts of climate change, and the need to address historical wrongs—have heightened the urgency for greenspace interventions that enhance quality of life for all residents. This panel discussion with local leaders will address the policy changes and mindset shifts required for the environmental, mental, and physical health benefits of parks to become equitably accessible to all Atlantans.
- Justin Cutler, Commissioner of Parks & Recreation, City of Atlanta
- Chandra Farley, Chief Sustainability Officer, City of Atlanta
- David R. Brown, Ph.D., FACSM, Senior Behavioral Scientist, Policies for Active Communities Team, Physical Activity and Health Branch, CDC, Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity and Obesity
- Rachel Maher, Director of Policy & Communications, Park Pride (moderator)
Expanding Access to Nature for the Mobility Impaired
For many people confined to wheelchairs or who cannot leave their homes due to other mobility challenges, experiencing the healing properties of nature has often been out of reach. But a new program, All Terrain Georgia, is changing that. Attend this interactive demonstration session and learn about the partnership that is expanding access to nature and how individuals with mobility impairments will be able to navigate Georgia’s beautiful state parks with assistance from advanced, all-terrain wheelchairs.
- Melanie Dunn, Assistant Director, Aimee Copeland Foundation (Co-Moderator)
- Danielle Bunch, Lead Conservationist, Newman Wetlands- Clayton County Water Authority (Co-Moderator)
- Lindsay Wilbanks, ATC buddy with Aimee Copeland Foundation; Partner of ATC user
3:30 p.m. – Networking Break
4:00 p.m. – Closing Plenary Session
Designing Towards Justice (KEYNOTE)
Description: Over the past decade, the team at MASS Design Group has worked with partners in the US and across the globe on a number of projects that explore new ways to shift narratives, serve as a catalyst for truth-telling, and advance collective healing through the built environment. In 2020, they established the Public Memory and Memorials Lab at MASS, an initiative that advances research, training, and built work around a central thesis: spatializing memory can heal us and inspire collective action for generations to come. Jha D Amazi, Director of the Public Memory and Memorials Lab, will share several projects that demonstrate how the team is working to expand narratives through public memory.
- Jha D Amazi, Principal, MASS Design Group
5:00 p.m. – Closing Reception
Online registration has closed.
Limited walk-up registrations will be available at the conference for $250/person.