Gathering for the Greener Good

Parks & Greenspace Conference

Monday, March 27 | 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.


16th Annual Parks & Greenspace Conference:
Connecting with Parks

The 16th Annual Parks & Greenspace Conference, Connecting with Parks, will explore how parks and greenspaces bridge gaps between individuals, communities, political jurisdictions, and ecosystems to become places of regional importance. Whether a transportation corridor such as a green street, a linear park spanning several neighborhoods, or a network of parks designed to capture rainwater, our parks and greenspace serve a vitally important role in connecting us to the environment, to our neighborhoods, to commerce, and to each other.

Connect to the Theme

The conference program, consisting of tours and lectures led by both local and national experts, will examine how greenspaces connect our communities, cities and environments together through discussions pertaining to:

  • Health & wellness
  • History
  • Design
  • Transportation
  • Water
  • Biodiversity & ecology
  • Equitable development

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!

Welcome + Opening Plenary Session
Sponsor: Cox Conserves / Cox Enterprises)

Featured Speakers – Connecting with Parks in Atlanta

Moderator: Nancy Rigby, President, Cox Foundations
Rob Brawner, Executive Director, Atlanta BeltLine Partnership
Becky Katz, Chief Bicycle Officer, City of Atlanta
Ed McBrayer, Executive Director, PATH Foundation
Paul Morris, President & CEO, Atlanta BeltLine, Inc.

Join us as we open our conversation on “Connecting with Parks” with local leaders. PATH, the Atlanta BeltLine and bicycles are shaping connections to parks and to each other. Our featured speakers will share reflections on connectivity and its importance to the future of our city.

Morning Breakout Sessions

  • Doubling Up: Innovative Parks Making the Most of Public Infrastructure and the Spaces In-between

    Connie Chung, Director, HR&A Advisors
    Robert Rogers, Partner, Rogers Partners Architects + Urban Designers
    Thomas Woltz, Principal, Nelson Byrd Woltz Landscape Architects

Public and civic infrastructure, such as highways, rail, power lines and bridges provide essential services for the healthy functioning of urban life. With public space at a premium, infrastructure can also play double-duty by creating new opportunities for previously unimagined open spaces on top, underneath and all around. This expert panel, featuring the team leading the design and planning for the “Buckhead Park over GA 400,” will explore the ways in which infrastructure is enabling new types of public space and multi-layered function through examples from New York, Florida, Texas, California and here in Atlanta.

  • From Space to Place: Successful Placemaking in Atlanta

    Moderator: Elena Madison, Vice President, Project for Public Spaces
    Stephen Causby, Mattie Freeland Coordinator, Friends of Mattie Freeland Park
    Wilma Sothern, Vice President of Marketing, Central Atlanta Progress
    Suganthi Simon, Westside Program Officer, Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation

Project for Public Spaces will inspire you with the ideas and practice of “placemaking” and the steps to bring about fundamental change in your community. This presentation highlights the collaborative process of “placemaking,” using efforts at the heart of downtown Atlanta and Atlanta’s Westside as examples, and will illustrate how the activation of great public spaces can bring life, excitement and a sense of belonging to a community.

  • A Rediscovery of Our Urban Waterfronts

    Debra Edelson, Executive Director, Emerald Corridor Foundation
    Betsy Eggers, Board Chair, Peachtree Creek Greenway
    Kimberly Estep, Executive Director, South Fork Conservancy
    Jodi Mansbach, Board Chair, Chattahoochee NOW

(view presentation)

Our region’s waterways are experiencing a renaissance as environmental groups, residents and developers see their potential to serve as natural pathways that link communities, greenspaces and regions together. Learn about the struggles and successes of several local organizations that work to transform neglected urban waterfronts into thriving natural habitats and build connections to the surrounding communities, creating vibrant gathering spaces throughout Georgia.

  • Greening Critical Infrastructure

    Dr. Kari Watkins, Professor, Georgia Institute of Technology
    Nico Boyd, Graduate Research Assistant, Georgia Institute of Technology
    David Ederer, PhD Student, Georgia Institute of Technology
    Diane Silva, Landscape Architect, The Trust for Public Land
    Leselle Vincent, Research Engineer, Georgia Institute of Technology

(view presentation)

We all know that parks are great places to meet with friends and neighbors, and that a great park has a positive impact on property values. But what are we missing? This panel will present research on the less obvious impacts of parks that make them critical infrastructure in urban environments, such as the successful uses of parks as green transportation corridors and the impact greenspace has on stormwater management, jobs and public health.

  • Emerging Trends in Connecting Parks and Health

David Barth, PhD, President, Barth Associates, LLC
Rob Brawner, Executive Director, Atlanta BeltLine Partnership
Micah Lipscomb, Landscape Architect, Perkins + Will

(view presentation)

The health benefits of parks and greenspaces are well-documented. As new research continues to strengthen the park / health connection, emerging trends such as public / private partnerships, are beginning to blur the lines between parks and health care facilities. This session focuses on how both public and private open spaces can be planned and designed to provide therapy, health and wellness benefits based on the latest findings from both practice and research.

  • Birds, Bees + Trees (walking tour)

Adam Betuel, Director of Conservation, Atlanta Audubon Society
Melina Lozano Duran, Pollinator Garden Coordinator, Atlanta Botanical Garden
Brian Williams, Forest Restoration & Prairie Restoration Program Manager, Trees Atlanta

If you just want to take a moment and enjoy spring in Atlanta, join three scientists as they guide participants on a walking tour to see our urban birds, bees and trees. These guides will highlight the amazing diversity of birds found in our urban parks, stretch your concept of bees and other pollinators in urban areas, and help you to appreciate Atlanta’s urban forests.

  • Championing Connectivity & Relay, Atlanta’s Bike Share Program
    (morning + afternoon leisurely bike ride session)

    Ambar Johnson, Atlanta Bike Share Champion
    James Tyler, Atlanta Bike Share Champion

Guides Ambar and James, Atlanta Bike Share Champions, are part of a new initiative on Atlanta’s Westside to build a diverse base of bike share users. Participants will enjoy a leisurely ride (on Atlanta’s friendly blue bike share bikes!) through Piedmont Park while learning about how both parks and the bike share program have become essential elements of connectivity and community building. (Relay bikes and helmets provided, or if you biked to the conference, feel free to ride your own!)

Mid-Day Plenary Session
Sponsor: Kaiser Permanente)

Keynote Address – How Parks Develop Citizenship in a Disconnected World

Speaker: Audrey Peterman, Author, Legacy on the Land: A Black Couple Discovers Our National Inheritance and Tells Why Every American Should Care

(view presentation)

Parks and public lands are the glue that holds our cities, and thereby country, together. How can we utilize parks and open spaces to begin a conversation about our commonalities and civic engagement? Audrey Peterman, a nationally recognized leader in the movement to make America’s parks—national, state and urban—relevant to every demographic group in our population, will inspire with her strategies and success stories of nurturing citizenship and civic pride through engagement in parks.

Afternoon Breakout Sessions

  • Government Powerhouse Panel on Connectivity

Moderator: Michael Halicki, Executive Director, Park Pride
Faye DiMassimo, Renew Atlanta Infrastructure Program General Manager, City of Atlanta, Dept. of Public Works
Tim Keane, Commissioner, City of Atlanta, Dept. of Planning & Community Development
Amy Phuong, Commissioner, City of Atlanta, Dept. of Parks & Recreation
Todd Hill, Watershed Director, City of Atlanta, Dept. of Watershed Management
Stephanie Stuckey, Chief Resilience Officer, City of Atlanta, Office of Sustainability

(view presentation)

Over the past year, leaders within the City of Atlanta have made great strides in breaking the silos that have kept departments isolated. These inspiring government leaders share stories of success and partnership as they have leveraged resources and expertise across departments. Come learn how the multiple benefits of parks, greenspace and trails are being integrated into stormwater management, transportation and an innovative approach to city-wide planning.

  • Realizing the Transformational Impact of Urban Trails: An Atlanta BeltLine Case Study

Moderator: Candace Damon, Vice Chairman, HR&A Advisors
James Alexander, Housing Policy and Development Director, Atlanta BeltLine
Jerald Mitchell, Director of Economic Development, Atlanta BeltLine
Stan Wall, Partner, HR&A Advisors

(view presentation)

It’s well known that trails provide places for recreation, alternative modes of transportation and access to nature. In addition, for the last decade, policy makers have focused on the economic value trails create, principally by augmenting tourism and boosting surrounding real estate value. Increasing attention to equity has illuminated a key role that parks and trails can play in enabling balanced economic development and creating new spaces for affordable housing. This panel, featuring national experts in open space development and affordable housing, will highlight the Atlanta BeltLine as a case study of how trails can foster equitable economic growth. Panelists will discuss equity as the new measure of success for urban open spaces.

  • Socially Speaking: The Well-Being Benefits of Parks

Na’Taki Osborne Jelks, Board Chair, West Atlanta Watershed Alliance
Viniece Jennings, PhD, Research Scientist, USDA Forest Service
Audrey Peterman, Author and President & Co-Founder of Earthwise Productions

A powerful link exists between greenspace and physical, emotional and spiritual well-being. All people deserve equal access to these benefits. This session will explore the health benefits of parks and how they can be maximized through thoughtful park programming and advocacy efforts. The panel, composed of local and nationally recognized speakers, will also discuss strategies to increase minority and underserved community access to greenspace.

  • Concept to Construct: Overcoming the Challenges of Park and Trail Development

    Moderator: Andrew Lindsay, President, Astra Group, Inc.
    Allen Eison, Vice President of Operations, Astra Group, Inc.
    Marcie Moore, Manager of Greenways Program, Gwinnett County Gov’t
    Pete Pelligrini, Project Manager, PATH Foundation
    Lauren Standish, Associate, HGOR

(view presentation)

A panel of industry experts will share lessons learned and best practices for the four critical phases of trail and park development—vision, concept, construction and maintenance. The panelists will examine the differences between urban and suburban projects and how context affects logistical, regulatory and budgetary considerations.

  • Three Parks and Their Places within History

Moderator: Neale Nickels, Director of Preservation, Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation
CJ Jackson, Executive Director, Conservancy at Historic Washington Park
Nancy Love, Chair, Friends of Frazier-Rowe Park
David Moore, Executive Director, Historic Oakland Foundation

(view presentation)

Parks have taken many forms throughout history—pastoral places for restorative promenades, places of remembrance and memorial, and places for active play and family gatherings. This talk will look at the roles that local parks have played to bridge social, economic and racial divides. Panelists will also discuss how expectations of parks have changed over time and highlight the roles that parks continue to play today as connectors within communities.

  • Learning to Connect – Parks are classrooms! (walking tour)

Location: Departs from Hardin Visitor Center lobby (limited to first 30 participants!)
Eli Dickerson, Ecologist, Fernbank Museum of Natural History
Bob Sargent, Mentor Advisory Board, Race 4 Birds Foundation
Adam Roades, Interpretive Graphic Designer, Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation

Parks introduce students to the natural world and provide places to connect to nature. Join three seasoned environmental educators as they demonstrate a range of park programming that highlights the richness of urban ecosystems. This walking tour will give you a chance to experience the latest ideas in environmental education and see if it might be right for your park!

  • Championing Connectivity & Relay, Atlanta’s Bike Share Program
    (morning + afternoon leisurely bike ride session)

Location: Departs from front of Mershon Hall (limited to first eight participants!)
Ambar Johnson, Atlanta Bike Share Champion
James Tyler, Atlanta Bike Share Champion

Guides Ambar and James, Atlanta Bike Share Champions, are part of a new initiative on Atlanta’s Westside to build a diverse base of bike share users. Participants will enjoy a leisurely ride (on Atlanta’s friendly blue bike share bikes!) through Piedmont Park while learning about how both parks and the bike share program have become essential elements of connectivity and community building. (Relay bikes and helmets provided, or if you biked to the conference, feel free to ride your own!)

Closing Plenary Session + Remarks
Sponsor: The Home Depot Foundation)

Announcement of 2018 Conference Theme
Keynote Address – People Habitat: Eight Ways to Think About Greener, Healthier Cities

Speaker: Kaid Benfield, Author, People Habitat: 25 Ways to Think about Greener, Healthier Cities

(view presentation)

Healthy parks require a healthy context—cities that are strong, environmentally sensitive and attractive. But what are the key ingredients of a green and healthy “people habitat”? Walkability helps, as does thoughtful use of nature inside cities. Respect for community history and character is important, too. Ultimately, it comes down to creating and nurturing places that we can love.

(Sponsor: Ed Castro Landscape)


Pre-Conference Connectivity Tours

In conjunction with the Parks and Greenspace Conference, Park Pride is hosting tours on the theme, "Connecting with Parks." We hope you'll join us to see connectivity in action!

Park Ride: Connectivity on Atlanta’s Eastside


Jump on your bike and join Park Pride on this guided bike tour to explore the communities along Memorial Drive, an industrial area that is evolving into a diverse mixed-use urban corridor. Learn from planners, park advocates and local residents about how they’re working to create a walking and biking network across the communities by connecting greenspace and amenities.


The Roswell Connection

Date: Sunday, March 26, 2017
Location: The tour will begin and end in the Candler Park Parking Lot (1500 McLendon Ave NE, Atlanta, GA 30307)
Time: 1:00 P.M. – 4:00 P.M.
Cost: $15

The City of Roswell is taking improving the quality of life of their residents seriously. They recognize that citizens are yearning for great, walkable, bikeable and accessible communities. Join this walking tour to see an example of how Roswell is responding to their citizens’ needs with the new River Walk.

  Learn More & Register

2017 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

Ed Castro Landscape
City of Atlanta Department of Watershed Management
HR&A Advisors
The Conservation Fund
The Trust for Public Land

Silver Sponsor

Georgia ASLA
Atlanta BeltLine Partnership
Astra Group
Georgia Precast Solutions
Jones Day
Perez Planning + Design, LLC
Piedmont Healthcare
Playground Creations
Playworld Preferred
Pond & Company


Atlanta Regional Commission
Batdorf & Bronson
City of Decatur
Georgia Forestry Commission
Invest Atlanta
KAIZEN Collaborative
Metropolitan Atlanta Urban Watershed Institute
Perkins + Will
Smith Dalia Architects