Gathering for the Greener Good

Parks & Greenspace Conference

Monday, March 26, 2018 | 9 A.M. - 5 P.M.

Each spring, Park Pride hosts the annual Parks & Greenspace Conference, the largest parks conference in the southeast, to explore a selected theme about parks and greenspaces. It is a wonderful environment for networking with elected officials, community leaders, and park advocates who are driven to improve parks and strengthen communities.

2018 Conference Theme


Urban Resilience

The capacity of individuals, communities, institutions, businesses and systems within a city to survive, adapt and grow no matter what kinds of chronic stresses and acute shocks they experience.

The 17th Annual Parks & Greenspace Conference, Parks & the Resilient City, will focus on parks and their relationship to urban resilience. Join us as we explore how a robust park system contributes to the overall resilience of a city and learn ways to make our park systems more resilient in the face of a growing population and economic uncertainty.

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 urban resilience through discussions pertaining to:

  • Planning for resilient parks
  • Parks and community resilience
  • Parks and the resilience of the built environment
  • Parks and ecological resilience

Who Should Attend

The Parks & Greenspace Conference offers something for everyone!

  • Parks & recreation professionals
  • Policy makers
  • Architects & landscape architects
  • Urban planners
  • Community members
  • Environmental & civil engineers
  • Real estate developers
  • Environmental lawyers
  • Anyone who loves parks!


Keynote Speakers
Otis Rolley

Regional Director, North America of 100 Resilient Cities

Otis brings to 100 Resilient Cities an entire career dedicated toward resilience and urban development in the private, non-profit and public sectors. He has worked in housing, community economic development, strategic planning, performance management, municipal administration, and urban and regional transportation planning. An honors graduate, Otis earned his BA from Rutgers University and a masters from M.I.T.


Ken Leinbach

Executive Director of the Urban Ecology Center

Ken Leinbach is the Executive Director of the Urban Ecology Center and a national leader in promoting community-based environmental education. Since 1998, Ken has developed the economically and environmentally sustainable community center and an award-winning urban education program. Under Ken’s guidance, the Urban Ecology Center built a $5 million state-of-the-art green facility, expanded by opening a second branch on Milwaukee’s west side and has become a significant asset to the city.


Kate Orff

Founder and Design Director of SCAPE; recipient of MacArthur “Genius Grant”

Kate Orff is a landscape architect envisioning new forms of public space that reveal and revive the hidden ecological systems underlying our built environments and encourage urban residents to become active stewards of their natural surroundings. Her research and design practice addresses the challenges posed by urbanization and climate change (such as biodiversity loss and rising sea levels) through in-depth collaborations with ecologists, engineers, educators, artists, and community members that aim to make our urban habitats more adaptive and resilient.


Also featuring

Ryan Gravel

Founding Principal at Sixpitch

Ryan Gravel, AICP, LEED AP, is an urban planner, designer, and author working on site design, infrastructure, concept development, and public policy as the founding principal at Sixpitch. His master’s thesis in 1999 was the original vision for the Atlanta Beltline, a 22-mile transit greenway that with fifteen years of progress, is changing both the physical form of his city and the decisions people make about living there.


Nathaniel Smith

Founder and Chief Equity Officer (CEqO)/CEO of the Partnership for Southern Equity

Nathaniel Smith serves as Founder and Chief Equity Officer (CEqO)/CEO of the Partnership for Southern Equity (PSE). Empowered by the unified vision and voices realized through its regional engagement efforts, PSE pushes for policies and actions that promote balanced growth and inclusive prosperity in metropolitan Atlanta and beyond. Before taking on the founding role of PSE’s Chief Equity Officer/CEO Mr. Smith served as Director of Partnerships and Research for Equitable Development at Emory University’s Center for Community Partnerships (CFCP).


Links are provided below to the Parks and Greenspace Conference speaker presentations that we have permission to share.

Keynote Presentations

Resilient Atlanta: Progress Cannot Wait

View presentation

Otis Rolley100 Resilient Cities, Regional Director, North America

Otis Rolley, the North America Regional Director at 100 Resilient Cities, will redefine Urban Resilience as it relates to innovative urban policy, dynamic greenspace initiatives, and abounding social cohesion. Though responsible for all of North America, including 27 cities in the US alone, Otis was directly involved in the development of Resilient Atlanta: Actions to Build a More Equitable Future and continues to work closely with Mayor Bottoms and Chief Resilience Officer, Stephanie Stuckey. During his presentation, Otis will focus on the vital role that parks and greenspace play in building our future city today. 


It’s kind of fun to do the Impossible

View presentation

Ken Leinbach, Executive Director of the Urban Ecology Center

Come hear this rags-to-riches story, where riches are not measured in financial wealth but in changed lives. It’s an inspirational story of how Milwaukee’s Urban Ecology Center grew from a double wide trailer in a high crime park into a globally recognized education model today. It is about how fostering ecological understanding in an urban park can become a catalyst for positive neighborhood change and change city-wide. It is not just a story, but the beginning of a discussion of how this model can take shape in the city of Atlanta.


Toward an Urban Ecology

View presentation

Kate Orff, Founder, SCAPE, Director, Center for Resilient Cities and Landscapes at Columbia University

Resilience to shocks and stressors such as climate change and extreme weather is critical to future cities. Kate Orff will discuss strategies for mapping, park design, and diverse coastal edges, and how to transform public spaces into multi-purpose infrastructures that hold water and foster civic life. Recent SCAPE projects that combine regenerative landscape design with community engagement will be highlighted as a model for future practice. 


Morning Breakout Sessions 

Creative Placemaking as Cultural Resilience

View presentation

Matthew Clarke, Director of Creative Placemaking, The Trust for Public Land

Creative Placemaking is a cooperative, community-based process that uses arts and cultural expression to create or rejuvenate parks and open spaces. This collaborative process inspires community pride and creates a real sense of place. Matthew Clarke, author of the Field Guide for Creative Placemaking and Parks, sees creative placemaking as integral to our cultural resilience, giving people and communities the tools to understand a changing environment and to take action in the face of that change. This session will explore the practices of creative placemaking and provide examples of its impact on cultural resilience.

Additional Links:

Field Guide for Creative Placemaking and Parks


Strengthening Cities through Open Space Design: Case Studies from New Orleans and Houston

View presentation

Sarah Olivier, New Orleans Program Director, The Trust for Public Land

Kinder Baumgardner, Managing Principal, SWA Group
Anthony Kendrick, Green Infrastructure Specialist, Construction EcoServices
Gaylan Williams, Senior Associate, Dana Brown & Associates

How can cities use their public spaces to better prepare for climate change? What is the best way to design and manage features that provide multiple benefits? Learn how New Orleans and Houston are using parks and open space to mitigate the damage from increasingly severe storms. Be inspired by in-depth presentations of City Park in New Orleans, and Buffalo Bayou and North Skate Park in Houston.

Additional Links:

Managing Water in New Orleans


Low-hanging Fruit: Food Forests for Food Security and Community Resilience

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Alfie Vick, Georgia Power Professor in Environmental Ethics, University of Georgia, College of Environment and Design

Mario Cambardella, Urban Agriculture Director, City of Atlanta, Office of Resilience

Elizabeth Beak, Sustainability + Food Systems Planner, City of Atlanta, Office of Resilience
Kim Bego, Community Member, Brown’s Mill Food Forest
Melanie Bowerman, Special Projects Coordinator, Athens Land Trust
Lindsey Sita Mann, Founder, Sustenance Design, LLC

Learn about the innovative concept of food forests, landscapes designed with edible plants that mimic the layers and communities of a forest ecosystem. Food forests are gaining attention as a strategy to incorporate food producing landscapes into urban public spaces. Hear how these unique greenspaces provide public access to fresh food in Atlanta and throughout North America.


Finding a Balance: Environmental and Community Needs at Greenville’s City Park

Darren Meyer, Principal Landscape Architect, MKSK Studios
Ginny Stroud, Community Development Administrator, City of Greenville, SC
Jeff Waters, Urban Designer, City of Greenville, Parks and Recreation Department

The City of Greenville, South Carolina is in the process of developing a new regional park within the floodplain of the Reedy River. As they begin planning for this exciting new public space, the project leaders must also consider the impact that the new park will have on the current residents of the economically depressed neighborhood where it will be located. During this session, the leaders for Greenville’s City Park project will share the steps and considerations being taken to address gentrification and affordable housing needs while creating a new park.


Biodiversity: Nature’s Answer to Resilience

View presentation

Kathryn Kolb, Director, EcoAddendum

Quentin Bass, Forest Archaeologist, Tribal Liaison, Heritage Program Manager, USDA Forest Service – Cherokee National Forest
Nikki Belmonte, Executive Director, Atlanta Audubon Society
Mark Mandica, Executive Director, The Amphibian Foundation

Did you know that the southeastern US is the most biodiverse region in the country? And, despite our urban location, Atlanta’s parks and greenspaces are home to many of our region’s native species – even some that are rare and threatened. In this session, experts will highlight the unique qualities of Atlanta’s forests with a special focus on birds and amphibians. Participants will take home a deeper knowledge and appreciation of the nature of our region and learn how climate change, habitat loss, and other factors increase the importance of parks, greenspaces, and even our backyards, in preserving and restoring biodiversity.


Wild in the City: What Squirrels Can Tell Us About Resilience

 View Presentation

Jamie Allen, Writer & Multimedia Storyteller, Squirrel Census
Stewart Haddock, Senior Associate, Squirrel Census
Sally Parham, Logistics Chief, Squirrel Census

Squirrels are so common that we don’t generally give them a second thought, but they can teach us important lessons about resilience. Observing the role they play in our parks offers a chance for us to appreciate the balance of nature and to learn from our friends in the trees. Stretch your legs with a walk and demonstration count in Piedmont Park with the Squirrel Census team as they talk about Sciurus carolinensis and the Squirrel Census story.

Afternoon Breakout Sessions

Financial Resilience – Successful Budget Campaign that Provides Funding for All

View presentation

Candace Damon, Vice Chairman, HR&A Advisors

Jayne Miller, President and CEO, Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy

This session is all about parks and community resilience. Jayne Miller, the former Superintendent of the Minneapolis Parks and Recreation Board (MPRB), will share how the combination of parks and community can make great things possible. Despite serious financial challenges, the MPRB rallied the Minneapolis community to make significant long-term investment in its parks. Miller will share the work done by the MPRB to rise to the challenge and strengthen the parks and the community in an equitable manner, addressing racial and economic equity.

Additional Links:


A Tale of Two Rivers: Parks and Placemaking along the Chattahoochee & Flint

View presentation

Todd Boatman, Chief, Plan Formulation Branch, Corps of Engineers

Ben Emanuel, Director, Clean Water Supply, American Rivers
Hannah Palmer, Coordinator, Finding the Flint
Walt Ray, Director, Chattahoochee River Program, The Trust for Public Land
Wanona Satcher, Program Manager, Chattahoochee NOW

Too long ignored, paved over and polluted, the Chattahoochee and the Flint Rivers have finally been rediscovered and recognized. Now there are efforts underway to reconnect Atlanta to its rivers and creeks. Come learn about plans for greenspace, trails, parks and green infrastructure that restores a human scale and a healthier watershed to the area.


Planning for Parks, Resilience, and Green Infrastructure

View presentation

Cicely Garrett, Deputy Chief Resilience Officer, City of Atlanta, Office of Resilience
Clara Kwon, Assistant Director of Park Design, City of Atlanta, Dept. of Parks & Rec., Office of Park Design
Susan Rutherford, Watershed Manager, City of Atlanta, Department of Watershed Management

As we hear from national speakers about the resilience efforts taking place around the country, this session provides a look at how City of Atlanta departments are coordinating efforts to address parks, resilience and green infrastructure.  These efforts include the Department of Parks and Recreation’s comprehensive plan for Parks and Recreation; the Department of Watershed Management’s green infrastructure action plan and the Office of Resiliency’s resilience plan. Learn how local leaders at the agency level are working together to make it all happen.


Big Picture: Partnerships for Resilience on a Regional Scale

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Michael Alexander, Director, Center for Livable Communities, ‎Atlanta Regional Commission
Sarah Kirsch, Executive Director, ULI Atlanta
Jay Wozniak, ‎Director, Georgia Urban Parks Program, The Trust for Public Land

Responsible growth depends on a thoughtful and coordinated approach that extends beyond the City of Atlanta to protect the urban, suburban and rural landscape within the region. This panel will discuss the strengths and necessity of dynamic partnerships to coordinate the design of greenspace and its integration on a regional level with transportation, livable communities, and water resource management.


Prioritizing Nature in Design and Planning

View presentation

Kerry Blind, FASLA, LEED AP

Jennifer Dowdell, Project Manager, Landscape Ecological Planner & Designer, Biohabitats, Inc.
Alfie Vick, Georgia Power Professor in Environmental Ethics, University of Georgia, College of Environment and Design

When nature is prioritized in planning and design, ecosystems, as well as communities, benefit. Jennifer Dowdell will demonstrate how data informs successful park design that responds to climate change and enhances community resilience. Alfie Vick will explore the concept of biophilic design and its positive impact on human health and well-being. Both speakers will discuss the necessity of a seamless balance of science and design with nature at its core.


The Centers of Hope – An Inter-Agency Strategy to Enhance Atlanta’s Socio-Economic Resilience

LaChandra Butler-Burks, Executive Director, City of Atlanta, Dept. of Parks & Rec. Office of Recreation
Carlos Perez, ‎President, ‎Perez Planning + Design, LLC
Major Marisha Shepard, Community-Oriented Policing Section Commander, City of Atlanta Police Department

The demands on parks and recreation systems today are significant. They are expected to provide multiple economic, social, and environmental benefits and address a range of complex challenges. This session’s speakers will discuss how an inter-agency partnership between the Atlanta Police Department and the City of Atlanta Department of Parks and Recreation and its Atlanta’s Centers of Hope is addressing inequities in education, poverty, safety, health, and wellness. 


The Greater Atlanta Pollinator Partnership: A model for Urban Pollinator Conservation

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Jackie Belwood, Assistant Professor of Biology, Georgia Highlands College
Dr. Emily Coffey, Vice President for Science and Conservation, Atlanta Botanical Garden
Melina Lozano Durán, Pollinator Restoration Coordinator, Conservation and Research Department, Atlanta Botanical Garden
Dennis Krusac, Regional Pollinator Conservation Coordinator, USDA Forest Service

Global pollinator populations are in decline for many reasons, including habitat loss and pesticide use. The Greater Atlanta Pollinator Partnership (GAPP) provides the tools and information required to developed pollinator habitat in the metro-Atlanta area and beyond. Furthermore, the Atlanta Botanical Garden’s Urban Pollinator Restoration Program works in conjunction with GAPP to make this possible. Speakers will introduce the GAPP and the Urban Pollinator Restoration Program and other educational tools used to create and restore viable pollinator habitats around Atlanta for butterflies, bees, moths, hummingbirds, and other beneficial insects and animals.


Closing Plenary Session

Featured Presentation: Parks + the Beloved Community

Ryan Gravel, Founding Principal at Sixpitch and urban planning visionary behind the Atlanta BeltLine
Nathaniel Smith, Founder and Chief Equity Officer (CEqO) / CEO of the Partnership for Southern Equity


2018 Conference Sponsors

Presenting Sponsor

Cox Conserves

Community Engagement Sponsor

Kaiser Permanente

Community Building Sponsor

The Home Depot Foundation

Venue Sponsor

Atlanta Botanical Garden

Gold Sponsor

Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation
The Conservation Fund
Ed Castro Landscape
Georgia Power
HR&A Advisors
COA Dept of Watershed Management
The Trust for Public Land

Silver Sponsor

Georgia ASLA
Astra Group
Atlanta BeltLine Partnership
DTJ Design
Jones Day
Perez Planning + Design, LLC
Perkins + Will
Playground Creations
Playworld Preferred
Pond & Company


Atlanta Regional Commission
Batdorf & Bronson
City of Decatur
The Coca-Cola Company
Invest Atlanta
KAIZEN Collaborative
Smith Dalia Architects
Turner Foundation