Gathering for the Greener Good

Parks & Greenspace Conference

Monday, March 28, 2022 | Atlanta Botanical Garden | 8:30 a.m. - 5 p.m.

This event has passed. Thank you for an amazing 2022 Parks & Greenspace Conference!



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.

Theme: The Parks We Need Now

As we live amid a global public health crisis, our expectations for parks and outdoor spaces have increased dramatically. No longer are parks nice-to-haves, parks are essential to our everyday quality of life. We turn to parks to exercise, to play, and to safely socialize—parks are as critical to our health and wellness as clean, safe drinking water. While we long for “normal” we have to ask, can pre-pandemic strategies keep pace with the increased demands we place on parks? 

At Park Pride’s 21st Annual Parks and Greenspace Conference, speakers will identify actions that park systems can take to meet community needs NOW:

  • park funding strategies and management protocols that meet public expectations;
  • parks that contribute to human health while creating environments resilient to global climate change;
  • parks that unite communities from within and sustainably weave neighborhoods together into richly multicultural, creative, and collaborative cities. 

Connect to the Theme

The conference program, consisting of tours and lectures led by both local and national experts, will examine The Parks We Need Now through discussions pertaining to:

  • Equity
  • Funding
  • Safety

  • Resilience + climate change
  • Health

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!






Neelay Bhatt
Principal, PROS Consulting INC.

As the Principal at PROS Consulting INC. (based in Indianapolis), Neelay Bhatt has been involved in 130+ Strategic / Master Planning projects (including Atlanta, Los Angeles County, San Diego, Charlotte-Mecklenburg County, Indianapolis, Las Vegas etc.) which have recommended facility development and infrastructure improvements totaling over $2 billion USD and are helping shape a better vision for equity, health and wellness and conservation globally. 

Besides several years of consulting, public speaking, and training, Neelay champions “Ideas Worth Spreading” as the curator and organizer for Maryland’s signature TEDx event. Additionally, he has served on the National Recreation and Park Association’s Board of Directors to ensure that ‘no child is left indoors’.  

Norma Edith García-González,
Director, County of Los Angeles Department of Parks and Recreation

Norma E. García-González was appointed as Director of the County of Los Angeles Department of Parks and Recreation and the Los Angeles County Regional Parks and Open Space District on July 7, 2020. She is the first woman to serve in that capacity and executive role in the Department since it was created in 1944. In her role, Mrs. García-González was responsible for the Department’s day-to-day operations of 182 facilities that include an annual budget of $256 million, more than 2,600 employees and 6,477 registered volunteers.

Previously, she also held the position of Deputy Director for the Department’s Planning and Development Agency. In her thirteen-year career with the Department, Mrs. García-González has held responsibilities in areas of planning, acquisition, development, and asset management of 71,249 acres of parkland and over 200 miles of trails.

Mrs. García-González is an advocate for the well-being of children, families and in bringing equity to communities throughout the County. This commitment is further demonstrated through her active participation in various civic and professional organizations. She served on the Governing Board of Trustees for Rio Hondo College and the El Monte Promise Foundation.

Akiima Price, 
Akiima Price Consulting

Akiima Price is a creative thinker and doer who links people, places, and programs with stressed, underserved communities. A Washington, DC native, Akiima is a nationally respected thought leader at the intersection of social and environmental issues and the relationship between nature and community well-being. Her innovative programming strategies feature nature as a powerful medium to connect youth, adults, and families in meaningful, positive experiences that affect the way they feel about themselves, their communities, and their parks. From her early career experiences as a National Park Service Interpretation Ranger at Lake Mead National Recreation Area in Boulder City, Nevada to work her national work with environmental and social service organizations, Akiima has cultivated over 25 years of experience into cutting-edge best practices in trauma-informed environmentalism. Akiima recently co-founded the Friends of Anacostia Park and is building out a framework that innovates meaningful ways to use park experiences to address mental, physical, and social wellness in marginalized communities.

Meghan Talarowski
Executive Director, Studio Ludo

Meghan is the founder and executive director of Studio Ludo. She is a landscape architect and certified playground safety inspector with almost 20 years in the design field. Her research focuses on how the design of play environments impacts physical health and social behavior, and has been presented at conferences worldwide since 2009. Her work has been featured by The New York Times, The Atlantic, NPR, Curbed, Landscape Architecture Magazine, and World Landscape Architecture Magazine.







At the Parks & Greenspace Conference, you’ll have the opportunity to choose to attend one of many engaging breakout sessions in both the morning and afternoon. Check out the lineup* below!

*This program will be updated as sessions are finalized and scheduled. Check back for new information as it becomes available! 


Opening Plenary Session (8:30 – 10:40 a.m.)

Keynote Presentation – The Power of One

Keynote Speaker: Neelay Bhatt, Principal, PROS Consulting INC.

As we think of the future and the Parks We Need Now, Neelay Bhatt will share stories from Disney to New Zealand on how to embrace change and what’s next while emphasizing the power of each individual to make an impact.

Keynote Presentation – Leaning in: Healing.Equity.Parks.

Keynote Speaker: Norma Edith García-González, Director, County of Los Angeles Department of Parks and Recreation

The County of Los Angeles Department of Parks and Recreation is widely recognized for its leadership in advancing equity and access in its programs and projects guided by a groundbreaking parks needs assessment – but this was not always the case. Hear about and be inspired by the transformative and awakening journey that Los Angeles County took to achieve an equity-centered mission.   


Morning Breakout Sessions (11 a.m. – 12 p.m.)

Planning for Equity: Let’s Activate ATL!


  • John Dargle, Jr., Commissioner, City of Atlanta Department of Parks & recreation
  • Qaadirah Abdur-Rahim, Chief Equity Officer, City of Atlanta
  • Carlos Perez, Principal, Perez Planning + Design, LLC
  • Tara Buckner, Urban Planner, City of Atlanta
  • Sabina Kasumova, Senior Management Analyst, City of Atlanta 

A deep dive with Atlanta’s Chief Equity Officer and the project team to discuss how equity emerged as a driving force of Activate ATL, Atlanta’s new 10-year Parks and Recreation Master Plan, adopted at the end of 2021.  

Food: Justice, Wellness, & Community in Parks


  • J. Olu Baiyewu, Urban Agriculture Director, City of Atlanta
  • Dr. Erica Holloman-Hill, West Atlanta Watershed Alliance
  • Soisette Lumpkin, Urban Food Forest at Browns Mill
  • Dr. Tameka Goodson, Urban Food Forest at Browns Mill
  • Nicholas Bamonte, HABESHA  

What does it look like to deepen the connection between land, people, and food in public spaces and parks? Learn how three Atlanta groups use food to build inclusive, and intentional partnerships to feed mind, body, and soul in ways that are inclusive and culturally relevant. 

Implementing the Chattahoochee RiverLands 


  • Walt Ray, Chattahoochee Program Director, The Trust for Public Land
  • Monique Sheffield, District 4 Commissioner, Cobb County
  • Gena Wirth, Design Principal, SCAPE
  • Kimberly Greer, City Manager, City of Johns Creek 

A comprehensive look at the Chattahoochee RiverLands, a regional vision to connect people to the river with an uninterrupted trail & park system from the Buford Dam to Chattahoochee Bend State Park. 

Green Infrastructure in Atlanta’s Parks and Open Spaces


  • Tamara Graham, Environmental Program Manager, City of Atlanta, Dept of Watershed Management 
  • Amanda Hallauer, Watershed Manager, City of Atlanta, Dept of Watershed Management
  • Aaron Wiener, Senior Landscape Architect, City of Atlanta, Dept of Parks & Recreation
  • Na’Taki Osborne Jelks, Faculty, Environmental Studies and Science, Spelman College 

The panel will discuss both the challenges of managing urban stormwater and the opportunities of integrating green infrastructure more holistically in the park and open space network. 

Changing Systems to Change the World: Getting Real on Racial Equity 


  • Lysa Ratliff, Chief Executive Officer, KABOOM!
  • Jen De Melo, Senior Strategist of Organization Innovation and Strategic Partnerships, KABOOM!
  • Kamilah Pickett, Race Matters Institute
  • Monica McClain, Principal of Park Heights Academy, Baltimore City Schools

What needs to happen to change the persistent reality of racial inequity in public play spaces? Panelists will share their efforts to center equity in their organizations and discuss how focusing on equity sparked promising new work centered on public elementary schools in Baltimore. 

Cultivating Resilience and Equity in South Louisiana


  • Kellyn LaCour-Conant, Restoration Programs Director, Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana
  • Gaylan Williams, Urban Designer, Design Workshop
  • Gardner Goodall, Native Plants Program Coordinator, Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana
  • Mitchell Provensal, Senior Program Coordinator, Baton Roots

Journey to South Louisiana to discuss challenges and successes in balancing public recreation and wildlife habitat needs and designing for stormwater management while advancing equity and maintaining funding for these critical efforts.

Lunch (12 – 1 p.m.)


Mid-Day Plenary Session (1 – 2:20 p.m.)

Keynote Presentation: Got Stake?

Keynote Speaker: Akiima Price, Akiima Price Consulting

Stakeholder engagement is fundamental to any successful organization. However, when your outreach efforts do not mirror your community expectations, your targeted audience can be quickly labeled “hard to reach.” This keynote will highlight the “speed of trust” and the importance of authentic two-way community investment.


Afternoon Breakout Sessions (2:40 – 3:40 p.m.)

Meaningful Park Engagement: Making Park Experiences Count for Stressed Communities


  • Akiima Price, Principal, Akiima Price Consulting
  • Carmera Thomas, Director of Urban Conservation Initiatives, The Conservation Fund
  • Phyllis Nelson, Engagement Coordinator, Friends of Anacostia Park
  • Karol Gilmore, Program Manager, Jobs Have Priority 

Explore how parks and partnerships can be used to support the human development goals of justice and social service organizations. Examples will include successes and lessons learned around program innovation, inclusive collaborations, and trauma-informed park stewardship.  

Climate. Park. Change. A toolkit for Climate-ready Parks 


  • Ayanna Williams, Director of Community and Environmental Resilience, National Recreation and Park Association
  • Lanmuzhi Yang, Associate Landscape Architect, Sasaki 
  • Alex Lamle, User Support, South Atlantic and Southeast Conservation Blueprints, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Learn about how Climate.Park.Change. a web-based platform, compiles data on how climate change affects park and recreation spaces and suggests physical design solutions that address climate impacts as well as other community challenges.  

Putting the Flint River Back on the Map 


  • Hannah S. Palmer, Urban Designer & Author
  • Polly Sattler, Senior Sustainability Planner, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport
  • Tasha Hall Garrison, Economic Development, City of College Park
  • Stephanie Berens, Deputy Director, Parks & Greenspace, Clayton County Parks & Recreation 

Trace the Flint River’s headwaters with this panel as they discuss building partnerships across jurisdictions, shifting perceptions of a forgotten river, and delivering equitable community benefits while restoring the headwaters of Georgia’s second longest river. 

Making Space for Girls 


  • Jodi Mansbach, Principal, PlayLark Studios, Living Playgrounds Collective
  • Meghan Talarowski, Principal, Studio Ludo
  • Vanessa Lira, Senior Project Director, Street Plans
  • Amelia Waits Gambill, Student, Midtown High School 

Explore how the design of parks has historically ignored the varied needs of older girls. Panelists and participants will workshop how to bring the voices of girls and young women into the planning process and will leave with design strategies to create more inclusive public spaces.

Unlocking Your Park’s Superpowers


  • Isabel González Whitaker, Journalist and Park Maker
  • Elizabeth Wickland, President-elect North Atlanta Parents for Public Schools
  • Sofia Marie Bork, Community Engagement Director, Sara J. González Park
  • Christina Chu, Community Outreach Coordinator, Welcoming Atlanta, Mayor’s Division of Immigrant Affairs 

Learn how the Sara J. González Memorial Park rallied community during an economic, social, and culturally challenging year. Through food distributions and social justice rallies, the park became a community center point for diversity, unity, family, and dignity. 


Closing Plenary Session (4 – 5 p.m.)

The Parks We Deserve Now

Keynote Speaker: Meghan Talarowski, PLA, ASLA, CPSI, Executive Director, Studio Ludo

What makes a playground “spark joy” for all ages? After studying the play behaviors of over 60,000 people in 100 playgrounds worldwide, Meghan Talarowski has the answer.

COVID Safety


The safety of our patrons and our staff is our number one priority. As such:

  • proof of full and up-to-date vaccination (all recommended COVID-19 vaccines, including booster when eligible) or a negative COVID-19 test from a health care facility within 48-hours of the event, must be shown at conference check-in on March 28th.
  • Additionally, all conference attendees, speakers, and staff must wear N-95, KF-94 or KN-95 face masks.  

Please review the full Enhanced COVID-19 Safety Procedures and Health Pledge.

Enhanced COVID-19 Safety Procedures

Conference registration is limited to adhere to COVID safety procedures. Get your ticket today!






This event has passed. 




2022 Conference Sponsors

Presenting Sponsor

Cox Conserves

Community Engagement Sponsor

Georgia Power

Community Building Sponsor

The Home Depot Foundation



Venue Sponsor

Atlanta Botanical Garden


COA Dept of Watershed Management
ASLA Georgia
The Conservation Fund
Integrated Land Design
Dominica Recreation and GameTime


Astra Group
Cooper Carry
Dancing Goats
Greenfields Outdoor Fitness
Husqvarna Group
Jones Day
Lord Aeck Sargent
Perez Planning + Design
Perkins + Will
Playground Creations
Smith Dalia Architects
Starr Whitehouse
University of Georgia College of Environment + Design


Georgia Planning Association
City of Decatur Active Living
The Coca-Cola Company