Month: October 2015

Become a Park Advocate: Perspective from Esther Stokes

Park Pride Board Member – Esther Stokes

Esther Stokes

  • Advocacy Committee Chair
  • Years involved with Park Pride: 10
  • Neighborhood Parks: Piedmont Park and Brookwood Hills Park

As chair of Park Pride’s Advocacy Committee, I believe that all Atlantans in all neighborhoods should have access to quality parks. Advocating for our parks is important work because (1) Atlanta doesn’t have enough park acreage, and (2) we don’t budget enough money to properly maintain the parks we do have.

How can we do better?

We need to set the bar higher. We need to make incremental improvements, steadily, over time. We need to allocate more money to our parks for maintenance workers and gardeners, for park acquisition, and for capital improvements in parks such as paths, pavilions, splash pads, and shade structures.

These investments in our parks will have a substantial payback not only in terms of economic development and attracting new residents to our city, but also in the overall health and vitality of our city and its citizens.

During the recession, we saw serious cuts in the City of Atlanta Parks Department’s budget and personnel. A reverse to this trend, the 2016 budget cycle has increased investment with a new $1,300,000 for park operations and maintenance under the leadership of Commissioner Amy Phuong. We need to continue this work, investing more each year, over a long period of time.

This will take the commitment of our political leaders, park advocates, and all citizens. I invite you to join us in our mission to improve our parks!


If you’re interested in park advocacy issues, sign up for Park Pride’s emails at

Recent Park Improvements: Plan a Visit!

Since 2004 and with support from the Robert W. Woodruff Foundation (Legacy Grants), The Home Depot Foundation (Community Building Grants), and the Cecil B. Day Foundation (Small Change Grants), Park Pride has awarded more than $3.6 million through our re-granting program to help communities pay for new playgrounds, land acquisition, improved signage, new trails, exercise equipment, and other amenities. Over the summer, several groups have completed a variety of different projects funded in part by Park Pride grants and matched dollar-for-dollar by the community:

Legacy Grants

Ribbon cutting at Mountain Way Common

On September 2nd, the Friends of Mountain Way Common, Livable Buckhead, the City of Atlanta, Park Pride, and members of the Buckhead community cut the ribbon on the park’s new pedestrian bridge, the first amenity from the master plan that has come to fruition and that completes the park’s trail loop.


Lindsay St Park

Lindsay Street Park, English Avenue’s first park, is under construction, and this summer the community hosted their first picnic in the park. Once completed, this park will feature a playground, green infrastructure amenities to mitigate the effects of stormwater runoff, restored woodlands, a lawn for events and sports, and more.


John Howell Park

In an effort to keep the volleyball court sand where it belongs (on the court!), the Friends of John Howell Park completed a retaining wall around the court’s perimeter. In addition to greatly improving the aesthetics of the park, the wall has also increased the court’s safety. Bring friends out for a game!


Little Nancy Creek Park pavilion

As part of the Phase III development at Little Nancy Creek Park, the Friends group created a gathering space overlooking the park’s playground and community garden. The new pavilion is a great place to spend time with friends, family, and neighbors, and enjoy the natural beauty of the park.



Community Building Grants

Arabia kiosks

Hikers and bikers rejoice! Arabia Mountain National Heritage Area has new wayfinding signage at their kiosk to help you find your way. When you visit, make sure to also check out the new signs about the wonders of this unique monadnock (an isolated and exposed rock hill).


The Friends of Fraizer-Rowe Park have enhanced the beauty of the park’s LaVista Rd. entrance with the installation of a welcoming arbor. Come out with your family and enjoy  the beauty of the park’s natural trails in DeKalb County!


For more information about Park Pride’s Matching Grant Program, visit the Park Pride website:

A Refreshing Change for Reverend James Orange Park

It’s Wednesday, July 8th, and you can’t find two smiles bigger in Oakland City (Southwest Atlanta) than those on the faces of Jernard Evans and Terry White. These teens, who live within blocks of Reverend James Orange Park and are involved in the recreation center’s teen program, are psyched about the changes they’ve seen take place at the park thanks to the major renovations that have recently been completed.


Jernard Evans (left) and Terry White (right) at the brand new playground at Reverend James Orange Park, July 2015.

For years, the Reverend James Orange Park (then Oakland City Park) pool sat empty and unused behind a chain-linked fence. The pool house was closed and inaccessible to park visitors. The playground was deteriorating.

RJOP before

Reverend James Orange Park pool, February 2014.

“Not too many people were coming here,” Jernard says. “It was a broken-down place,” Terry adds.

Three years ago, the community decided to push for a park that the neighbors, and especially the youth, needed. The Friends of Reverend James Orange Park reached out to Park Pride for assistance – they had a dream for their park, one that included a pool full of families and a playground full of children. Now they needed a cohesive vision – a master plan. Community stakeholders charged ahead enthusiastically with Park Pride into the Park Visioning process, and soon after, applied for and received a $100,000 grant from Park Pride to demolish the pool and build a brand new playground.

RJOP Design

Final Park Visioning conceptual master plan for Reverend James Orange Park, created in 2012.

The community’s strength and determination caught the attention of the City of Atlanta, and Mayor Kasim Reed pledged to rebuild Reverend James Orange Park’s pool and pool-house, and install a brand new splash pad.

On July 8th, 2015, hundreds of happy community members gathered to celebrate the fulfillment of that pledge and the hard work of the Friends of Reverend James Orange Park and the City of Atlanta Department of Parks and Recreation at the official ribbon cutting ceremony for the park’s new amenities!

Ribbon cutting ceremony

Ribbon cutting ceremony, July 2015.

After the ribbon is officially cut, a cheer goes up from the crowd and dozens of day campers rush into the refreshing water. There’s laughter, there’s excitement, and there’s plenty of playful splashing. The feeling of hope for the future, both that of the park and the community, is tangible in the crowd. “It’s different now that the park has been renovated. A lot of people of all ages come out to use the park and support the community,” Terry explains. Jernard is smiling, gazing towards the hoopla coming from the pool, “Now when I come to the park, I feel joy,” he says, and with a laugh, he adds. “After all, you can’t have summer without a pool!”

RJOP - 7.8 (94)

Community residents enjoy the brand new pool at Reverend James Orange Park, July 2015.


Thank you!

Because of donors like you, Park Pride is able to offer programming to Friends of the Park groups at no cost, making stories like this possible.

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Educating Future Designers & Planners

How does Park Pride influence the future of landscape architecture and community engagement?

Interns at Mattie Freeland Greenspace

Interns Corey Ferguson and Brandon Green chat with community members about potential plans for the Mattie Freeland Greenspace.

Park Pride has built a robust intern program for aspiring landscape architects within the Park Visioning Program. Walt Ray, the Director of Park Visioning and registered landscape architect, teaches the principles of the “Park Pride Way,” our unique bottom-up approach of park design, while simultaneously engaging interns with plenty of real world experience through working with, learning from, and designing for communities that are re-imagining their parks. They gain insight into design challenges, politics, and community engagement tactics; they practice public speaking and presentation techniques, as well as hone graphic design and drawing skills.

Interns at Ed Castro Landscape

Walt Ray leads interns through design training at Ed Castro Landscape.

This summer, three Park Visioning interns*, Corey Ferguson, Brandon Green, and Jessica Overton, participated in the visioning of the Mattie Freeland Greenspace in the English Avenue neighborhood. Established as an honor garden for the late Mattie Freeland, a dedicated community resident, the greenspace had become a center of activity for the neighborhood, and residents sought assistance in the creation of a common vision for its future. Corey, Brandon, and Jessica wasted no time in immersing themselves into creating detailed maps of the land, documenting the current condition of the greenspace lots, and seeking out potential areas for expansion. Side-by-side with community residents, they surveyed neighbors about the current use and future hopes for the greenspace.

McKenzy Heath

McKenzy Heath shares her dreams for the future of Mattie Freeland Greenspace.

Under Walt’s guidance, the interns prepared conceptual drawings of possible designs that accommodate the neighbors’ desires for Mattie Freeland Greenspace and learned valuable lessons about responding to a community’s needs and building neighborhood consensus.

Jessica intern

Park Visioning intern, Jessica Overton, prepares for a community meeting.

We hope that they’ll carry those lessons with them into their future careers, ensuring that one day every community will have a well-used park or greenspace that perfectly reflects their unique personality and culture!

Park Pride will be accepting Park Visioning intern applications in mid-February, 2016, for summer 2016.

Learn more about the Park Visioning Website on Park Pride’s website:

*Park Pride’s Summer 2015 interns were generously supported with stipends from the Cherokee Garden Club.

A Closer Look at Park Visioning

The Park Visioning Program utilizes a straightforward process that yields big results!



  1. A community is guided through a series of stakeholder meetings where they are encouraged to dream and form consensus around the priority projects they have for the design (or re-design) of their park.
  2. A steering committee of community members holds check-ins with the Visioning team over the six to eight month visioning process to guide the direction of progress and understanding of the community’s needs.
  3. A tangible park master plan is produced that includes the list of projects desired, as well as the graphics and site plans necessary to help the community envision possible outcomes.
Mattie Freeland Final Visioning

Park Visioning Master Plan for Mattie Freeland Greenspace.

The Visioning Program has built a trusted reputation with park funders; Park Pride has worked with 34 communities in the City of Atlanta to develop master plans which have helped to attract more than $14 million of investment to implement community-created “Park Visions.”

For more information about Park Pride’s Park Visioning Program, visit the Park Pride website.

A Story of Hope

Park Pride met the little girl pictured recently on a hot summer’s evening at a neighborhood gathering in the Mattie Freeland Greenspace, a collection of vacant lots in the English Avenue neighborhood. The event was part of Park Pride’s unique Park Visioning process which helps communities create a shared vision for a neighborhood park.

She arrived eager to share her hopes of transforming these lots. She dreams that one day there will be a public park in her neighborhood. Her neighbors are dreaming of a playground and maybe a splash pad or basketball court, and places to sit in the shade or have a picnic. They long for a safe, fun, well-maintained place to play and enjoy the outdoors. With your help, we believe hopes like these can be realized.


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Park Pride is about more than parks and greenspace—it’s about people.

Mattie Freeland Final Visioning

The Park Pride Visioning process builds hope by bringing people together in a series of design and public meetings where they can have a say in the future of their park. Throughout the process, Park Pride’s experienced Visioning team provides pictures and site plans to help the community envision possible outcomes. Community members get to know each other and experience working together as they develop shared goals. The master plan, or “Park Vision,” created includes documentation of the process and public participation, design drawings, and a prioritized list of projects with preliminary budgets.


Your support makes it possible for the Mattie Freeland community and others throughout Atlanta to participate in Park Visioning at no cost.

The process strengthens the community, and the resulting plan is a valuable resource as groups seek to turn their dreams into reality.

Your gift to Park Pride means so much—maybe more than you realize.

IMG_8488You see, individual donations such as yours are absolutely essential to Park Pride’s ongoing operations.

Because of donors like you, Park Pride has a terrific 25-year track record for engaging and empowering communities in park creation, improvement, and activation, bringing people together and building community spaces that endure.

When you make a donation, you also support Park Pride’s hallmark community-focused “Friends of the Park” DSC_2549program which is complemented by an award-winning Volunteer Program, time-saving administrative support through the Fiscal Partners Program, the Matching Grant Programs, and of course, the unique and award-winning Park Visioning Program. These programs simply would not be possible without your generosity.

Perhaps most importantly, because of your gift, children throughout Atlanta and DeKalb have the opportunity to feel hope, to see that their words matter, and to see that someday their dreams can come true in their local parks.

Please make a generous gift today to help Park Pride make 2016 even better for children across Atlanta and DeKalb.


Give a Gift Today


We are grateful for your support. Thank you!


The Difference is Clear…

Change isn’t easy, and it doesn’t happen overnight! However, each year Park Pride actively helps neighborhoods to transform their parks and communities through programs. See the difference that your dollars help to make possible through the Volunteer Program:

Zonolite Park

Volunteers in Action

Each year, Park Pride coordinates more than 15,000 hours of volunteer service in parks with almost 5,000 individual volunteers, making a HUGE difference for Atlanta’s parks! But the Volunteer Program impacts more than just the physical aesthetics of greenspace; investing time and effort in parks makes a difference in the lives of the volunteers themselves. Volunteering builds community and feeds Atlantans’ sense of purpose: “I believe in giving back,” said one volunteer. “It’s just my responsibility,” says another. “This park won’t be what we want it to be unless we roll up our sleeves and get to work.” Whatever their reason for volunteering, Park Pride’s Volunteer Program allows passionate individuals, corporations, and oranizations to give back to their city.

Happy Volunteers

YOU Make Change Possible!

Your gift to Park Pride supports programs that bring positive change to communities. Thank you! For more information, visit

Donate Now

The Difference is Clear…

Change isn’t easy, and it doesn’t happen overnight! However, each year Park Pride actively helps neighborhoods to transform their parks and communities through programs. See the difference that your dollars help to make possible through the Park Visioning Program:

Vine City Park

VineCity Vision

In 2005, the Vine City community asked for Park Pride’s help in transforming two acres of debris and kudzu covered land into the first park in their neighborhood. Park Pride’s Visioning team worked with neighbors and other stakeholders over several months to help them refine their dreams for the new park into a conceptual master plan or “park vision,” which included a playground, amphitheater, seating and grilling areas, and plantings. The plan was implemented, and in 2007 the ribbon was cut on Vine City Park. In 2013, when adjacent properties were acquired, Park Pride brought the neighbors together once again to create a vision for expansion of the park. The community identified exercise equipment, green infrastructure and a playground expansion as key priorities for Phase II. Implementation of these improvements is underway and is scheduled for completion in fall 2015.

Vine City Complete

Give a Gift to Park Pride Today… and Make a Difference!

Your donation inspires hope and action for great parks in Atlanta and DeKalb. Thank you! Visit for more information.

Donate Now

The Difference is Clear….

Change isn’t easy, and it doesn’t happen overnight! However, each year Park Pride actively helps neighborhoods to transform their parks and communities through programs. See the difference that your dollars help to make possible through the Matching Grant Programs:

Reverend James Orange Park

For years, visitors to Oakland City Park had to pass a fenced, broken swimming pool to enter the park. Neighbors considered the park unsafe and parents wouldn’t allow their children to play there. When, in 2011, the park was renamed Reverend James Orange Park at Oakland City to honor a local hero, the community was inspired to push for a park worthy of its name. Park Pride worked with neighbors to develop a Park Vision that included a new pool, splashpad and playground. With the help of a Park Pride Legacy grant, the community’s dream became reality in July, 2015.  Local youth Jernard Evans expressed the community’s sentiment, “Now, when I come to the park, I feel joy!”

RJOP After

YOU Make Change Possible!

Your gift to Park Pride supports programs that bring positive change to communities. Thank you! For more information, visit

Donate Now

The Difference is Clear….

Change isn’t easy, and it doesn’t happen overnight! However, each year Park Pride actively helps neighborhoods to transform their parks and communities through programs. See the difference that your dollars help to make possible through the Friends of the Park Program:

Little Nancy Creek Park

LNC Before


The Friends of Little Nancy Creek Park have taken “determination” to the next level. What was once an empty, overgrown greenspace, is today a thriving and lively neighborhood park. Over the years, the Friends of Little Nancy Creek Park have taken advantage of Park Pride’s Visioning Program, Volunteer Program, Community Garden Program, Matching Grant Programs, and Fiscal Partners Program to create the park their community has always wanted. “We’re so proud of what our community accomplished in making our park a reality,” said Friends of Little Nancy Creek Park President, Anne Wilkie. “We couldn’t have done it without Park Pride.”


LNC After


Give a Gift to Park Pride Today… and Make a Difference!

Your donation inspires hope and action for great parks in Atlanta and DeKalb. Thank you! Visit for more information.

Donate Now