The Nature of Our City

2020 Parks and Greenspace Conference

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Keynote Speakers

Help Ensure Everyone Experiences Nature Through Increased Access to Parks

Kristine Stratton
President and CEO of the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA)

The benefits of spending time in nature are well-known. But the reality is not everyone has access to these benefits – especially in underinvested areas that lack access to quality parks. Improved park access is essential to providing people with opportunities to experience nature, and with the help of organizations, such as the National Recreation and Park Association there are many things park advocates can do right in their own communities.



Creating Sustainable Community Focused Open Space at Varying Urban Scales

Diane Jones Allen, D.Eng. PLA, FASLA 
Program Director for Landscape Architecture, in the College of Architecture Planning, and Public Affairs, at the University of Texas at Arlington; Principal Landscape Architect of DesignJones LLC in New Orleans, LA

Landscape architecture has been the most viable way to positively shape place, and give vulnerable populations not only a voice, but a tool for strengthening and sustaining the communities in which they live. This presentation will explore 3 open space projects, at various urban scales, that exemplify the principles of environmental, social-cultural and economic sustainability, through trans-active community engagement and creative place making.


A Revolution in Interconnectivity: Bridging the Divide Between Trees and People

David G. Haskell, PhD
Professor at University of the South, author of The Forest Unseen 

A revolution has shaken biology in the last decade. We’ve come to understand the vital importance of interconnection and relationship in the well-being of cells, bodies, and communities. This is as true in the city as it is in the rainforest. David Haskell will discuss how the surprising, often hidden, connections between trees and people sustain and enhance our lives.


Breakout Sessions

City Parks Now and in the Future

Catherine Nagel (Moderator)
Executive Director City Parks Alliance

Mitchell Silver
Commissioner, New York City Department of Parks and Recreation

Kathryn Ott Lovell
Commissioner, Philadelphia Parks & Recreation

Delve into a timely discussion on how the pandemic, economic fall-out, and Black Lives Matter movement have brought about a greater awareness of the critical role that parks, recreation, and the public realm play in meeting the needs of urban residents, particularly in times of crisis. In this compelling session, parks and recreation leaders will share their insights on how recent events have forced us to think differently about our common space and the potential for community healing through the lens of equity and race that currently divides us. How have the events opened up new possibilities for making cities more welcoming, just, and healthy for all? How can we reclaim parks and the urban realm to be more flexibly designed and managed to accommodate not only play but public protest and peacemaking as well? What are the ways that programming and recreational activities can recognize and celebrate historically underrepresented stories, cultural and racial perspectives, and community ideals? How have the past few months magnified the importance of access to close-to-home nature for people’s mental health, especially in under-resourced neighborhoods?


Community Resilience from East Harlem to West Atlanta

Jacob Lange, RLA, LEED AP
Principal / Atlanta Studio Director, Starr Whitehouse

Michael Haggerty, AICP, Assoc. AIA
Senior Associate / Director of Urban Design and Planning, Starr Whitehouse

Na’Taki Osborne-Jelks
Ph.D., MPH, Spelman College

Brandon Taylor
Director of Curriculum and Instruction, DREAM Charter School High School

Learn about two community-based planning and design projects in places that are geographically distant but socioeconomically similar. The panelists will present strategies for building infrastructure that bolsters community resilience in the face of environmental and socio-economic stressors. The design consultants, along with community partners, will share lessons learned, unforeseen outcomes, and the potential for new applications and adaptations of this participatory design model across regional and social context.


Nature-Based Strategies for Climate & Social Resilience in Parks/Green Spaces

Shelby Busó, (Moderator)
Chief Sustainability Officer, City of Atlanta, Mayor’s Office of One Atlanta

Jill Dixon, AICP
Associate Principal, Sasaki 

Katherine Hagemann
Resilience Program Manager for Adaptation, Office of Resilience, Miami-Dade County 

Melanie Gárate
Climate Resiliency Project Manager, Mystic River Watershed Association

Explore how cities are rising to the challenges of a changing climate by creating sustainable, sustaining, and equitable parks and greenspaces within our urban ecosystems.  This panel will take attendees on a virtual tour across the US to see how cities like Boston, Baton Rouge, and Miami are leveraging nature-based solutions to grow more resilient communities. After a brief overview by the speakers and their experience in the cities referenced above, this panel will turn its attention to Atlanta.  Drawing from specific challenges, these practitioners will explore the dimensions of unequal burdens of climate impacts and ways cities can expand access to nature, local food, outdoor recreation, and exercise in historically underinvested communities.