Towards a Greener Buckhead

 In Blog, In the News, News, Uncategorized

This is a guest blog post by Michael Halicki, executive director – Park Pride

Great parks enhance quality of life for those living in cities. Aside from their well-documented positive impacts on health and wellbeing, parks are places where communities come together. Neighbors meet neighbors, kids forge lasting friendships and families have a space outside of the home to relax and enjoy each other’s company. Parks are the heart of communities.

For this reason, Park Pride has engaged communities, including the Buckhead community, for the past 30 years to activate the power of parks. 

Access to public parks is as important in Buckhead as it is in every other corner of Atlanta. People might look at the large, tree rich private properties throughout the neighborhood, and think that the individuals living there have their needs met in terms of greenspace, but they don’t. In fact, in 2011 Livable Buckhead conducted a survey and found that Buckhead had 2.4 acres per 1,000 residents. Since then 35 acres have been added. An under-parked Buckhead means that many residents are missing out on many of the benefits that parks provide: most significant among them is a place for the community to gather and connect.

Despite the rapidly growing population of Buckhead–a trend consistent throughout all of Atlanta–and the high cost and lack of available, undeveloped real estate, local leaders (including Jim Durrett with Buckhead CID, Denise Starling with Livable Buckhead and Council Member Howard Shook), are facing the lack of parks in Buckhead with a heightened sense of urgency.

Livable Buckhead, the PATH Foundation and the Buckhead CID have blazed forward with the creation of PATH400, a project that has transformed the conversation in Buckhead and provided a proof-of-concept of the benefits for increased access to parks and trails. This project further provided the impetus for the creation of additional parks, such as Mountain Way Common and the future Loridans Park (which Park Pride has supported with the design services of the Park Visioning Program, and, in the case of Mountain Way Common, several funding grants).

The success of PATH400, as well as parks such as the Blue Heron Nature Preserve and Little Nancy Creek Park, has shown that there is, indeed, a huge appetite for more parks and trails in Buckhead by residents. Given the lack of real estate available to create a large, signature park in Buckhead, Buckhead CID’s Park Over GA400 proposal demonstrates progressive and creative thinking, something that will be needed (in increasing quantities!) to address our lack of access to greenspace as the city continues to grow. As an organization, Park Pride is watching the development of this concept with great interest. 

It has been said that “necessity is the mother of invention.” The leadership of both Livable Buckhead and the Buckhead CID (in addition to the multiple Friends of the Park groups in the area) are to be commended for their recognition of the need to make more community greenspaces accessible to residents and their creativity in responding to the challenge at hand.

If you’d like to learn more about the positive impacts that parks have on communities and ways that you can strengthen your community through your neighborhood park, I invite you to Park Pride’s 18th Annual Parks and Greenspace Conference, theme Parks are the Heart of Community, taking place on Monday, March 25, 2019 at the Atlanta Botanical Garden. Join more than 450 park enthusiasts and thought leaders at the largest parks conference in the southeast – early registration is open!

About Michael Halicki, executive director 

Michael Halicki is the executive director of Park Pride, the Atlanta-based nonprofit that engages communities to activate the power of parks. Michael manages staff and programs, supports the board, and leads fundraising, public relations and program development efforts. He joined Park Pride from Southface where he served as the organization’s first chief operating officer. Previously, Michael held senior leadership roles for two well-known, Georgia-based environmental nonprofits, the Clean Air Campaign and the Georgia Conservancy. Michael earned his graduate degree in nonprofit management from Georgia State’s Andrew Young School of Policy Studies. He is a graduate of the Regional Leadership Institute and, more recently, the Institute for Georgia Environmental Leadership. He serves on the board of EarthShare of Georgia. In 2016, Michael was named as one of “50 Influential Nonprofit Leaders” by the Atlanta Business Chronicle.

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