According to the great urban activist and influencer Jane Jacobs, for a park to be successful, it must “be where life swirls”–it must be the conduit for cultural and artistic expression for individuals and communities, a catalyst for healthy living, and accessible to and designed for all. Vibrant parks are the foundation upon which communities grow and thrive; they are the hearts of communities.
Join us as we explore the power of parks to reflect culture, artistic expression, and the unique personality of a community while equitably providing places to pursue healthy lives.
Connect to the Theme
The conference program, consisting of tours and lectures led by both local and national experts, will examine the relationship between parks and communities through discussions pertaining to:
- Arts + culture
- All ages + all abilities
- Equity + inclusion
- Community engagement
- Community planning + development
- Revitalization of community + environment
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!
Commissioner of the NYC Parks
Mitchell Silver, an award-winning planner with over 30 years of experience, became Commissioner of the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation in May 2014. Commissioner Silver is also the immediate past president of the American Planning Association (APA). He is internationally recognized for his leadership in the planning profession and his contributions to contemporary planning issues. As Parks Commissioner, Mitchell oversees management, planning and operations of nearly 30,000 acres of parkland, which includes parks, playgrounds, beaches, marinas, recreation centers, wilderness areas and other assets.
Prior to returning to his native New York City, he served as the Chief Planning & Development Officer and Planning Director for Raleigh, NC. In Raleigh, he led the comprehensive plan update process and a rewriting of the development code to create a vibrant 21st century city. He was the Dunlop Lecturer in Housing and Urbanization at Harvard University, and in 2014 he was inducted into the College of Fellows of the American Planning Association.
Mitchell received a Bachelor’s Degree in Architecture from Pratt Institute in Brooklyn and a Master’s Degree in Urban Planning from Hunter College in NYC.
Director of the Center for Nature & Health,
UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland
Nooshin Razani, MD serves as director of the Center for Nature and Health at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland. She is leading a team of clinicians conducting a randomized clinical trial to examine how to operationalize a park prescription program in a low-income setting.
Since 2014, Dr. Razani has prescribed time outdoors to her pediatric patients and their families as preventive medicine. The results of the first study, which was published in the peer-reviewed PLOS ONE in February 2018, showed reduced stress in the parents of pediatric patients at a clinic serving low-income families. The randomized clinical trial is the first of its kind. It compared the effect of supported park outings versus independent park prescriptions with the goal of learning how to operationalize a park prescription program in a low-income setting. Dr. Razani hopes these results along with ongoing research will eventually lead to evidence-based nature prescriptions.
Founder and Chair of 8 80 Cities
Gil (Guillermo) Penalosa is passionate about creating cities for all people. He has inspired and advised decision makers in more than 350 different cities around the world on how to create vibrant cities with healthy communities where all people can live happier, regardless of age, gender, ability, or socio-economic or ethnic status. His focus is on the design and use of parks, streets, sidewalks as great public places, as well as sustainable mobility: walking, riding bicycles, taking public transit, and new uses of cars. Gil highlights the benefits to public health, environment, mobility, economic development.
Gil is Founder and Chair of 8 80 Cities, a successful Canadian based international non-profit organization, grounded on a simple but powerful concept which still guides much of his work: What if everything we did in our cities had to be great for an 8-year-old and an 80-year-old? Surely, we would end up with fantastic cities for all!
Welcome + Opening Plenary Session (8:30 – 11 a.m.)
(Sponsor: Cox Conserves / Cox Enterprises)
Keynote Address – Parks and Public Space: What’s Next?
Speaker: Mitchell Silver, FAICP, Commissioner of the New York City Department of Parks & Recreation
Parks and public spaces are vital to the livability of cities. They are our living rooms—where people come together and create great memories. As the country urbanizes and demographics of the American population shifts, parks and public spaces are gaining even greater importance as places for physical health, mental health and social interaction. New York City has embarked on a new strategy to address the future of parks by redefining the role of public space in the 21st century through equity, innovation, planning, and placemaking.
Keynote Address – Park Prescriptions: Clinic and Park Partnerships for Pediatric Resilience
Speaker: Nooshin Razani, MD, Director of the Center for Nature & Health, UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland
In this talk, Dr. Razani will discuss her program at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland, where–in partnership with East Bay Regional Parks District–a collaboration with doctors and naturalists has created a supportive force in children’s lives. She will discuss the importance of parks in fostering pediatric health and well-being, and the potential for partnerships to encourage children to flourish in their lives.
Morning Breakout Sessions (11:15 a.m. – 12:15 p.m.)
Just Walk! How to Create a ‘Walk with a Doc’ Program
Guide: Carolyn Hartfield, Healthy Lifestyle Coach & Outdoor Adventure Leader, Happy Healthy Lifestyle, Inc.
Stretch your legs and experience the power of parks! Certified health coach, Carolyn Hartfield, will demonstrate the free resource for physical and emotional wellbeing inherent in our parks. This walk-and-talk session will illustrate how “walk with a doc’” programming can benefit your life and all who visit your park!
Equally Empowered: Local Voices for Parks and Health Equity
Viniece Jennings, Ph.D., Research Scientist, U.S. Forest Service Southern Research Station
Mother Mamie Moore, Member of The Beloved Community
Na’Taki Osborne Jelks, Ph.D.,MPH, Co-Founder, West Atlanta Watershed Alliance
Health equity is a state in which all people have access to conditions where they can achieve optimal health. Low-income and communities of color, however, often have unequal access to parks and greenspace, which have proven health benefits for those who live nearby. This interactive session will explore the positive impacts of quality parks on advancing health equity and how purpose-driven leadership can provide alternatives to pitfalls inherent in urban greening approaches.
Access and Activation: New Opportunities along the Chattahoochee and South Rivers
Ryan Gravel, AICP, LEED AP, Founding Principal, Sixpitch
Walt Ray, Director, Chattahoochee River Program, The Trust for Public Land
The Atlanta City Design elevates the notion of public greenspace along the City’s two hidden rivers: The Chattahoochee and the South Rivers. This session will showcase The Trust for Public Land’s current efforts to activate and preserve the Chattahoochee River and the Nature Conservancy’s efforts along the South River. Both will increase access to greenspace and encourage communities to interact with their local waters in entirely new ways.
The Lasting Impact of Site-Responsive Art in Urban Parks
In Kyoung Chun, Artist, In Kyoung Choi Chun
Anne Archer Dennington, Executive Director, Flux Projects
Richard Harker, Director of Programming and Volunteers, Historic Oakland Foundation
Beth Malone, Executive Director, Dashboard US
This session will explore how site-specific, temporary art installations can influence social discourse and change a park’s meaning for visitors. Speakers from Dashboard, Flux, and Historic Oakland Foundation will explore how this art responds to pressing contemporary community issues and invites audiences to engage with public spaces in new ways.
Park Visioning: Keys to the Heart of Community
Teri Nye, MLA, Visioning Coordinator, Park Pride
Andrew White, RLA, Director of Visioning, Park Pride
Park Pride’s design team provides professional planning assistance to community groups for their neighborhood parks. The Park Visioning Program facilitates a public engagement process for the community, and the community informs and guides the creation of a vision plan. Learn how these plans have been used by community groups to fundraise and advocate for desired park improvements.
Public Schools as Public Land: Maximizing a Community Asset
Moderator: Michael Halicki, Executive Director, Park Pride
John Dargle, Jr., Commissioner, City of Atlanta Department of Parks and Recreation
George Dusenbury, State Director, Georgia and Alabama, The Trust for Public Land
Rachel Sprecher, Office of Partnerships and Development, Atlanta Public Schools
Currently, only 65% of City of Atlanta residents live within a 10-minute walk of a park. Could school grounds, including playlots and playgrounds, serve double duty to meet neighboring residents’ greenspace needs? This session will explore an emerging partnership that could open some Atlanta Public Schools schoolyards to communities outside of school hours on evenings, weekends and during the summer.
Fulton County Arts Van Open House
Come visit the Fulton County Arts Van for a demonstration of some of their programming! (staffed by Atlanta/Fulton County Library volunteers)
Mid-Day Plenary Session (1:15 – 3:40 p.m.)
(Sponsor: Kaiser Permanente)
Keynote Address – Parks: Creating Healthy and Vibrant Cities for All
Speaker: Gil Penalosa, MBA, PhDhc, CSP, Founder and Chair; 8 80 Cities
Today, there are more older Americans then there ever has been before, and they are also living longer; the population over 65 will double and the over 80 will quadruple over the next 20 years. This simple fact requires that we begin to think about designing our cities differently. Gil Penalosa is the founder of 8 80 Cities, a non-profit organization grounded by a simple but powerful question: What if everything we planned in our cities had to be great for an 8-year-old and an 80-year-old? This concept extends to our park spaces and our access to them, uses and activities, infrastructure and programs, and management.
Penalosa will leave you inspired and thinking about the role of parks in creating a vibrant city with healthy communities where all people can live happier, more fulfilled lives.
Featured Panel – A Matter of Scale: Public Art in Public Parks
Isabel González Whitaker, Leader, Friends of Sara J. González Park
William Massey, Freelance artist and sculptor, William Massey Art
Samara Minkin, Manager of Public Art, City of Atlanta
Two key components of the world’s most beloved cities are great public spaces and ample experiences of arts and culture. Great public spaces and works of public art, however, aren’t just for major cities. This session demonstrates how public art can be integrated within a municipality at any scale: from blue chip acquisitions that put a city on the map, to works that celebrate cultural identities within communities, to works from local residents of all ages and abilities.
Afternoon Breakout Sessions (4 – 5 p.m.)
Topophilia Workshop: Discovering Place through Art
How do you get to know a place? How do you understand where you are? What do you notice? In this workshop supported by the Fulton County Arts and Culture Arts Van, you’ll tap into your senses for learning and discovery. This is a roving workshop for all ages and all levels that is about exploring our surroundings and how observation can inspire creativity. Participants will create a personal field guide as well as artwork from the exploration.
Restoring Health and Wellness to Our Communities
Breanna Lathrop, Chief Operating Officer, The Good Samaritan Health Center of Atlanta
Veronica Squires, Chief Administrative Officer, The Good Samaritan Health Center of Atlanta
Our neighborhoods are literally making us sick, but there is hope. Veronica Squires and Breanna Lathrop, co-authors of How Neighborhoods Make Us Sick: Restoring Health and Wellness to Our Communities will shine a light on the chronic challenges that keep neighborhoods down and the role parks can play in catalyzing individual health and promoting community strength and healing.
Workforce Development: Creating Jobs through Environmental Stewardship
Moderator: Ayanna Williams, Healthy Cities Director, The Nature Conservancy in Georgia
Charles Greenlea, Programs Director, Habesha, Inc.
Ashley Hicks, Green Jobs program alum and current Assistant Ranger at Browns Mill Food Forest
Lauren Muller, Invasive Plant Management Coordinator, Athens Land Trust
Eboni Preston, Director of Programs, Greening Youth Foundation
Parks are more than places to simply relax and have fun; they are places to build skills and explore career possibilities. Three local organizations will discuss their workforce development programs that foster the next generation of environmental professionals. Panelists will discuss their organization’s equity-driven programs that strengthen the connection between communities and parks.
Opening the Gates: Creating Private Greenspaces for the Public Good
Moderator: Bob Hughes, President, HGOR
Chris Chelette, Vice President of Planning, Design and Construction, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta
Latonda Henderson, Director of Community Activation, Mercedes-Benz Stadium
Recognizing the benefits of greenspace, private companies are incorporating park-like spaces into their facility designs to provide broader community benefit. The Home Depot Backyard at Mercedes-Benz Stadium and the North Druid Hills Campus of Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta are two examples of private greenspaces that present new ways to think about greenspace. Learn about these projects and how they make a difference in the communities they serve.
Chattahoochee RiverLands: Hands-on Workshop
Chris Barnes, Senior Associate, SCAPE
Vanessa Lira, Urban Designer, Atlanta City Studio at City of Atlanta
Eric Meyer, Planning Division Manager, Cobb County Department of Transportation
Walt Ray, Director, Chattahoochee River Program, The Trust for Public Land
Byron Rushing, Bicycling & Walking Program Manager, Atlanta Regional Commission
Meet and work with the design team for the Chattahoochee River Greenway project. This charrette-style session offers participants a chance to share their thoughts and ideas for this 100-mile long regional park from Buford Dam to Chattahoochee Bend State Park. What amenities and uses would you like to see? What concerns do you have? How would you like to live, work, and play at the Chattahoochee?
Social Inclusion Issues for Parks
Moderator: Ansley Whipple, Woodruff Park Project Manager, Atlanta Downtown Improvement District
Cathryn Marchman, Executive Director, Partners for HOME
Janika Robinson, Case Manager, HOPE Atlanta
HOPE Atlanta Client
A city’s homeless population can present challenges that are often ignored by stewards of public space. This presentation will look at Woodruff Park as a case study to unpack issues of social inclusion in parks. In the past, Woodruff Park has had a reputation of being a space where homeless people gather, which has had an impact on the kinds of activities that can happen there. In recent years, park revitalization efforts have aimed to be socially inclusive, ethical, and responsive. The latest development is the hiring of a full-time social worker, Janika Robinson, to proactively address the needs of the park’s most underserved visitors.
Activating Parks through Art
Moderator: Josh Phillipson, Principal, Creative Placemaking, Atlanta Regional Commission
Denise Brinson, Assistant City Manager, City of Suwanee
Laura Henninghausen, Executive Director, Freedom Park Conservancy
Mallory Izbicki, Events Coordinator, City of Brookhaven
Parks and greenspace can be great vehicles for cultural expression and public art! Join a panel of parks leaders who are finding surprising and creative ways to activate their parks with creative expressions and art and learn how this work has an impact beyond the park’s boundaries.
Reception (5 – 6 p.m.)
In conjunction with the Parks and Greenspace Conference, Park Pride is highlighting events and hosting tours on the theme "Parks are the Heart of Community." We hope you'll join us to see the power of parks in action!
ATL Parks & Rec Community Celebration
Saturday, March 23
Southside Sports Complex (3460 Jonesboro Rd SE, Atlanta, GA 30354)
12 – 3:00 p.m.
Come one, come all, to a community celebration at Southside Park that will be packed with activities for the whole family!
Join the City of Atlanta’s Department of Parks & Recreation, Councilmember Joyce Sheperd, Southern Off-Road Bicycle Association (SORBA) and partners for the ribbon cutting of the Southside Park mountain bike trail!
Attendees will also have the opportunity to enjoy a stroll and conversation about the latest mural and sculptural installations in the park with an art expert from the Mayor’s Office of Cultural Affairs!
Test your mountain biking skills with REI on their freestanding pump track* before setting out on Atlanta’s first (and only) mountain bike trails!
Then score some goals with the US Soccer Foundation on new mini-soccer pitches.
Schedule of Events:
12:00 p.m. – Mountain bike trail ribbon cutting
- Mountain bike trail open (helmets and bikes available)
- soccer clinic
- Cultural Affairs art talk
- REI pump track
- FOOD and GAMES!
Supporting partners include: MTB Atlanta, Park Pride, REI, U.S. Soccer Foundation, Mayor’s Office of Cultural Affairs, and South River Gardens Community Association.