Parks & Greenspace Conference

Thank you for attending the 20th Annual Parks and 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.

Theme: The New Case for Parks

As we reflect on the last year, we question whether the events of 2020 have set a trajectory for the next parks movement. Though parks are a foundational component of a healthy and resilient city under the best of times, the convergence of national and local crises over the last year has given way to new and more pressing arguments as to the importance of urban parks, trails, and greenspace.

During The New Case for Parks, the theme of Park Pride’s 20th annual conference, we will dive deep into this altered landscape and how the issues of racial justice, public health, civil unrest, and extreme weather events have renewed public interest in greenspace and ignited an urgent need to invest in our park systems for the benefit of all communities.

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:

  • Equitable Access to Parks for All
  • Dismantling Racial Barriers to Parks and Greenspaces
  • Greenspace and Health

  • Post-Pandemic Park Design
  • Parks as Critical Infrastructure

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

2021 Keynote Speakers

Al Bangoura, CPRP

In 2019, Alfred Bangoura took leadership of the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board (MPRB), the nationally acclaimed park system.

Prior to becoming the 12th MPRB Superintendent, Bangoura was the Recreation Superintendent of Mecklenburg County Park and Recreation, which includes Charlotte, NC and serves over 1.1 million people. Bangoura oversaw community and recreation services for the county’s 17 recreation facilities and three senior and active adult facilities.

He is a Certified Park and Recreational Professional (CPRP) and prior to joining Mecklenburg County, Bangoura served as the Director of Recreation Centers and Programs for the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board. From 2001 – 2015, Bangoura held a variety of progressive recreation leadership positions with the MPRB.

Kofi Boone, FASLA

Kofi Boone, FASLA is a University Faculty Scholar and Professor in the Department of Landscape Architecture and Environmental Planning at NC State University in the College of Design. 

His award winning work lays in overlap between landscape architecture and environmental justice with specializations in democratic design, digital media, and interpreting cultural landscapes.

Kofi serves on the Board of Directors of The Corps Network as well as the Landscape Architecture Foundation where he is President-Elect. He is also on the advisory board of The Black Landscape Architects Network. 

J. Marshall Shepherd, PhD

Dr. J. Marshall Shepherd is a leading international expert in weather and climate and is the Georgia Athletic Association Distinguished Professor of Geography and Atmospheric Sciences at the University of Georgia. Dr. Shepherd received his B.S., M.S. and PhD in physical meteorology from Florida State University.  He was the first African American to receive a PhD from the Florida State University Department of Meteorology, one of the nation’s oldest and respected.

Dr. Shepherd is the host of The Weather Channel’s Award-Winning show Weather Geeks and the 2018 recipient of the prestigious AMS Helmut Landsberg Award (among many other awards and honors!) for pioneering and significant work in urban climate.

He was a member of the Board of Trustees for the Nature Conservancy (Georgia Chapter), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Science Advisory Board, and Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed’s Hazard Preparedness Advisory Group.

Atiya Wells, RN

Atiya Wells is a pediatric nurse, outdoor educator, and the Founder/Executive Director of Backyard Basecamp, Inc. – a nonprofit with a mission to (re)connect Black, Indigenous, and People of Color to land and nature. 

While learning more about our natural world, she often noticed that she could count the number of Black people in the room on one hand. Diving into research and history, she learned that ancestral wounding and historical trauma are key players to the lack of diversity in nature-based programming. 

She has since dedicated her time to slowly (re)introducing her community to nature by starting in their own backyards and eventually embarking on a journey into the many wild spaces across Baltimore. 



9:00 a.m. – Welcome

9:15 – 10:00 a.m. – Keynote Address: Alfred Bangoura, CPRP

  • Rising to Challenges during a Difficult Year

Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board Superintendent Al Bangoura reviews how one of the top park systems in the country has evolved through its 138-year history, and focuses on how the chaotic, heartbreaking and unprecedented events of 2020 showed us that parks and open spaces are more important than ever before.

10:15 – 11:00 a.m. – Keynote Address: Kofi Boone, FASLA

  • Revisiting the Commons

The Twin Pandemics of 2020–COVID-19 and the reckoning over racial justice–forced critical examination across built environmental fields. How can we enable more equitable design, planning, and policies affecting our public spaces? This presentation revisits the idea of “The Commons” with an emphasis on its potential to address equity associated with parks and green spaces.

11:15 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. – Keynote Address: J. Marshall Shepherd, PhD

  • Zombies, Sports, and Cola: Implications For Communicating Extreme Weather and Climate Change

In this oddly-titled lecture, Dr. Shepherd will explore contemporary issues of weather and climate change from his lens as a scientist, professor, and communicator. He explores, in an accessible and enjoyable manner, the barriers associated with how people consume complex science topics. You will also walk away with a new knowledge about extreme weather and climate change. And he promises the title will make sense at the end.

12:00 – 1 p.m. – Lunch!

1: 00 – 2:00 p.m. – Breakout Sessions

  • The Green Tipping Point: Greenspace as a Catalyst for Community Preservation & Prosperity

Seen on both the local and national landscape, greenspace development can be a driver of gentrification and displacement. But must this be the case? This session, facilitated by RCE Greater Atlanta*, uplifts the real time, yet-to-be-completed case study of Atlanta’s Westside Park. Attendees will have the opportunity to collaborate with residents and local experts in an interactive session to examine the role of greenspace as a catalyst to enhance rather than disrupt the quality of life for legacy residents. Together we will explore how multi-stakeholder groups like the RCE network and others can support community-led efforts to prevent and repair the negative effects of green gentrification through equity-centered proactive engagement.


*RCE Greater Atlanta is a United Nations-affiliated regional sustainability network that supports multi-stakeholder implementation of the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals through education and training. It is one of over 175 Regional Centres of Expertise on Education for Sustainable Development around the world. This session has been planned and co-hosted with Jennifer Hirsch, Director of Serve-Learn-Sustain at Georgia Tech and Co-Founder and Member of RCE Greater Atlanta and Nancy Larson, LEED Consultant, Envision Realty Services and Co-lead, RCE Greater Atlanta Business Engagement Action Group.


  • What does it mean to belong? Building Radical Inclusivity through Play

The panel will examine public play spaces and the oppressive structural and social barriers preventing equal access to play. Many of us have foundational memories while at play that define our future selves. Every child deserves the opportunity for these experiences. Through personal stories and research, this session will examine what it means to belong in public space, in particular public play space. We will explore the radical changes needed to provide public play opportunities that are more equitable across race, gender, class, and ability levels.

    • Meghan Talarowski (moderator) – Executive Director, Studio Ludo
    • Cody QJ Goldberg – Executive Director, Harper’s Playground
    • Harrison Pinckney, PhD – Assistant Professor, Clemson University


  • A New Way of Looking at Parks: Public Health and Design Perspectives

We are examining parks with fresh eyes. We have long known that parks and greenspaces benefit our health and that access to quality parks and greenspaces isn’t equitable. How should we reframe our expectations for parks in this emerging post-pandemic, injustice-aware world? This session examines this questions with two thought leaders who are exploring this question through both research and practice.  A more nuanced perspective of park design and management is emerging to truly sere users of all ages, genders, abilities, and backgrounds.. Greater prioritization of and investment in green spaces in vulnerable communities is key to building stronger, healthier, more resilient communities in the 21st century.

    • Deborah Cohen, MD, MPH – Research Scientist, Division of Behavioral Health, Kaiser Permanente
    • Diana Fernandez, ASLA, PLA – Senior Associate, Sasaki


2:15 – 3:00 p.m. – Keynote Address: Atiya Wells, RN

  • Supporting Equitable Access to Nature: The Story of BLISS Meadows and a Call for Action

Hear from Atiya Wells, founder of Backyard Basecamp in Baltimore City, as she discusses the importance of equity in greenspace creation and cultivation.  With their BLISS Meadows project, Backyard Basecamp has reclaimed 10-acres of vacant land in their neighborhood to be used as a place for environmental education and community greenspace.



Continuing Education Credits

Please see below for details and requirements of each of the continuing education credits available through the Parks and Greenspace Conference.

Landscape Architects (PLA)

  • Park Pride is partnering with the Georgia Chapter of ASLA to offer LACES-certified continuing education through an educational sponsorship.
  • GA ASLA will administer a short quiz, which will serve as verification of attendance to each session.
  • Quizzes will be made available once session recordings have been posted within a few days of the event.

Certified Park and Recreation Professionals/Executives (CPRP/CPRE)

  • Any CEU equivalent credits awarded for CPRP/CPRE is dependent on NRPA’s review and approval of a post-event application, which is the responsibility of the attendee.
  • Certified Park and Recreation Professionals are eligible for up to 0.7 CEU equivalent credits
  • Completion of a short quiz will serve as verification of attendance to each session (each session is worth 0.1 CEUs).
  • Quizzes will be made available once session recordings have been posted within a few days of the event.
  • Upon completion of the quizzes, you will receive a certificate. Include your certificate along with the form linked below and send to NRPA to document your participation:

Certified Planners (AICP)


Continuing education credits for other credentials may be possible. Park Pride has neither sought nor obtained pre-approval for any other professional certification and cannot guarantee that the conference will meet continuing education requirements of your certification. A certificate of attendance will be issued for your use in petitioning your governing certification board for credit if you wish. Simply take the quizzes to receive documentation of your participation.



2021 Conference Sponsors

Presenting Sponsor

Community Engagement Sponsor

Georgia Power

Community Building Sponsor

The Home Depot Foundation

Conference Production Sponsor

Apple Box


Kaiser Permanente


ASLA Georgia
The Conservation Fund
The Trust for Public Land


ADS & Playground Creations
Cooper Carry
Jones Day
Lord Aeck Sargent
Perez Planning + Design
Piedmont Park Conservancy
Playworld Preferred
Smith Dalia Architects


Georgia Planning Association
Woodruff Park