Parks & Greenspace Conference



Each spring, 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.

Join us at the 2020 virtual conference where we will explore the theme, “The Nature of Our City.” Whether you live in the city center, the suburbs, or on the countryside, your ability to access and enjoy nature is a vital component for living a happy, healthy life.

However, for those who live in cities, parks can be one of the few, if not only, places to experience nature on a daily basis. Parks offer relief from the concrete, noise, and hurried pace that surrounds us. The slices of nature that exist in parks also serve as important infrastructure for our cities and support habitats for the other living things with which we share this planet.

Connect to the Theme

The conference program, consisting of tours and lectures led by both local and national experts, will explore the relationship between parks and nature through discussions pertaining to:

  • Parks and health
  • Access to nature
  • Parks as Natural Infrastructure

  • Parks as Habitats
  • Parks as Reflections of a City’s Character

Who Should Attend

The Parks & Greenspace Conference 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!

Keynote Speakers

Diane Jones Allen

Diane Jones Allen is currently the Program Director for Landscape Architecture, in the College of Architecture Planning, and Public Affairs, at the University of Texas at Arlington and Principal Landscape Architect of DesignJones LLC in New Orleans, LA.  Her research and practice is guided by the intersection of environmental justice, identity and sustainability in cultural landscapes, including “Nomadic” responses to “Transit Deserts,”: places of increasing transportation demand and limited access. She is the author of Lost in the Transit Desert: Race, Transit Access, and Suburban Form (2017).


David George Haskell

In a world beset by barriers, David Haskell’s work as a writer, scientist, and sound recordist reminds us that life’s substance and beauty emerge from relationship and interdependence. His first book, The Forest Unseen, that explored the secret world hidden in a single square meter of forest, was finalist for the 2013 Pulitzer Prize in nonfiction and received numerous other honors. Haskell received his BA from the University of Oxford and PhD from Cornell University. He is a Guggenheim Fellow and Professor at the University of the South in Sewanee, TN, where his classes have received national attention for combining action in the community with contemplative practice.


Kristine Stratton

Kristine Stratton is the president and chief executive officer of the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA). In her role, she is responsible for the nearly $20 million national organization that works to ensure that all people have access to parks for health, conservation, and recreation. NRPA is the national voice for the protection and creation of local parks, harnessing the passion of its more than 60,000 members and the millions of individuals they serve.


 Jason Ward

Jason Ward is an American naturalist, birder, and science communicator. He is the host of the 2019 television documentary series Birds of North America and the founder and CEO of “The BlackAFinSTEM Collective”.




Download the Agenda PDF

8:30 – 8:45 a.m. – Welcome & Introduction

8:45 a.m. – Keynote Presentation

Help Ensure Everyone Experiences Nature Through Increased Access to Parks

Kristine Stratton
President and CEO of the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA)

The benefits of spending time in nature are well-known. But the reality is not everyone has access to these benefits – especially in underinvested areas that lack access to quality parks. Improved park access is essential to providing people with opportunities to experience nature, and with the help of organizations, such as the National Recreation and Park Association there are many things park advocates can do right in their own communities.

9:45 a.m. – Keynote Presentation

Creating Sustainable Community Focused Open Space at Varying Urban Scales

Diane Jones Allen, D.Eng. PLA, FASLA 
Program Director for Landscape Architecture, in the College of Architecture Planning, and Public Affairs, at the University of Texas at Arlington; Principal Landscape Architect of DesignJones LLC in New Orleans, LA

Landscape architecture has been the most viable way to positively shape place, and give vulnerable populations not only a voice, but a tool for strengthening and sustaining the communities in which they live. This presentation will explore 3 open space projects, at various urban scales, that exemplify the principles of environmental, social-cultural and economic sustainability, through trans-active community engagement and creative place making.

10:45 a.m. – Keynote Presentation

A Revolution in Interconnectivity: Bridging the Divide Between Trees and People

David G. Haskell, PhD
Professor at University of the South, author of The Forest Unseen 

A revolution has shaken biology in the last decade. We’ve come to understand the vital importance of interconnection and relationship in the well-being of cells, bodies, and communities. This is as true in the city as it is in the rainforest. David Haskell will discuss how the surprising, often hidden, connections between trees and people sustain and enhance our lives.

11:45 a.m. – Concurrent Breakout Sessions

Go deeper into the conference theme by joining a virtual breakout session. Participate live, or watch a recording on-demand and at your own pace, making more Parks and Greenspace Conference content available to you than ever before!

City Parks Now and in the Future

Catherine Nagel (Moderator)
Executive Director City Parks Alliance

Mitchell Silver
Commissioner, New York City Department of Parks and Recreation

Kathryn Ott Lovell
Commissioner, Philadelphia Parks & Recreation

Delve into a timely discussion on how the pandemic, economic fall-out, and Black Lives Matter movement have brought about a greater awareness of the critical role that parks, recreation, and the public realm play in meeting the needs of urban residents, particularly in times of crisis. In this compelling session, parks and recreation leaders will share their insights on how recent events have forced us to think differently about our common space and the potential for community healing through the lens of equity and race that currently divides us. How have the events opened up new possibilities for making cities more welcoming, just, and healthy for all? How can we reclaim parks and the urban realm to be more flexibly designed and managed to accommodate not only play but public protest and peacemaking as well? What are the ways that programming and recreational activities can recognize and celebrate historically underrepresented stories, cultural and racial perspectives, and community ideals? How have the past few months magnified the importance of access to close-to-home nature for people’s mental health, especially in under-resourced neighborhoods?


Community Resilience from East Harlem to West Atlanta

Jacob Lange, RLA, LEED AP
Principal / Atlanta Studio Director, Starr Whitehouse

Michael Haggerty, AICP, Assoc. AIA
Senior Associate / Director of Urban Design and Planning, Starr Whitehouse

Na’Taki Osborne-Jelks
Ph.D., MPH, Spelman College

Brandon Taylor
Director of Curriculum and Instruction, DREAM Charter School High School

Learn about two community-based planning and design projects in places that are geographically distant but socioeconomically similar. The panelists will present strategies for building infrastructure that bolsters community resilience in the face of environmental and socio-economic stressors. The design consultants, along with community partners, will share lessons learned, unforeseen outcomes, and the potential for new applications and adaptations of this participatory design model across regional and social context.


Nature-Based Strategies for Climate & Social Resilience in Parks/Green Spaces

Shelby Busó, (Moderator)
Chief Sustainability Officer, City of Atlanta, Mayor’s Office of One Atlanta

Jill Dixon, AICP
Associate Principal, Sasaki 

Katherine Hagemann
Resilience Program Manager for Adaptation, Office of Resilience, Miami-Dade County 

Melanie Gárate
Climate Resiliency Project Manager, Mystic River Watershed Association

Explore how cities are rising to the challenges of a changing climate by creating sustainable, sustaining, and equitable parks and greenspaces within our urban ecosystems.  This panel will take attendees on a virtual tour across the US to see how cities like Boston, Baton Rouge, and Miami are leveraging nature-based solutions to grow more resilient communities. After a brief overview by the speakers and their experience in the cities referenced above, this panel will turn its attention to Atlanta.  Drawing from specific challenges, these practitioners will explore the dimensions of unequal burdens of climate impacts and ways cities can expand access to nature, local food, outdoor recreation, and exercise in historically underinvested communities.


1 p.m. – Keynote Presentation

Hope is the Thing with Feathers

Jason Ward
Naturalist, birder, and science communicator; host of the 2019 television documentary series Birds of North America; founder and CEO of “The BlackAFinSTEM Collective”

Join birder and science communicator Jason Ward as he highlights his journey from nature-obsessed kid growing up in The Bronx, New York, to living out a childhood dream as the host of ‘Birds of North America’. Jason has high hopes for the future of birding and conservation, but realizes that we have to improve on the current state of things in order to make it there. He details this and more in his presentation.




2020 Conference Sponsors

Presenting Sponsor

Cox Conserves

Community Engagement Sponsor

Kaiser Permanente

Community Building Sponsor

The Home Depot Foundation

Venue Sponsor

Atlanta Botanical Garden


COA Dept of Watershed Management
The Conservation Fund
Integrated Land Design
The Nature Conservancy
The Trust for Public Land


ADS & Playground Creations
ASLA Georgia
Astra Group
CoA Dept. of City Planning
Cooper Carry
Dominica Recreation and GameTime
Great Southern Recreation
Greenfields Outdoor Fitness
Jones Day
Long Engineering
Perez Planning + Design
Perkins + Will
Piedmont Park Conservancy
Playworld Preferred
Starr Whitehouse
The Turner Foundation
University of Georgia College of Environment + Design


Atlanta BeltLine Partnership
Batdorf & Bronson Coffee Roasters
City of Atlanta Tree Conservation Commission
City of Decatur Active Living
The Coca-Cola Company
The Concord Group
Georgia Chapter of the American Planning Association
Georgia Forestry Commission
Invest Atlanta
Reeves Young
Smith Dalia Architects
Woodruff Park