green infrastructure

The Power of Parks on Atlanta’s Westside


The creation of new parks and the improvement of existing parks are major parts of the narrative that is emerging in the Proctor Creek Watershed on Atlanta’s Westside and central to the plans for its revitalization.


Michael Halicki addresses attendees to the Vine City Park expansion ribbon cutting ceremony, May 19, 2016

Park Pride is a major part of this narrative, as is The Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation, the Westside Future Fund and partners that include The Conservation Fund, the Proctor Creek Stewardship Council, West Atlanta Watershed Alliance, Community Improvement Association, Greening Youth Foundation, ECO-Action, the Atlanta University Center and Chattahoochee Riverkeeper. So too are the related efforts of The Trust for Public Land, the Atlanta BeltLine Partnership, Emerald Corridor Foundation, and many other nonprofits and community organizations including the Friends of Maddie Freeland Greenspace, the Friends of Maddox Park and the Historic Washington Park Conservancy.

These groups all believe in the power of parks to reinvigorate a community.

POWER OF PARKS: Great parks have the power to increase our quality of life and strengthen the fabric of our cities. They are places for members of the community to gather, play, relax, and lose themselves in nature, encouraging mental and physical health. Great parks promote community engagement, safety, and revitalization. They spur economic development and benefit tourism. Great parks make our citizens happy, our communities strong, and our cities sustainable.

The City of Atlanta is also a major force for change in Proctor Creek, with support provided by the Atlanta Parks Department, Invest Atlanta, Watershed Management, the Office of Sustainability, Atlanta BeltLine Inc., members of Atlanta City Council and, of course, Mayor Kasim Reed. Most importantly, individual community residents are engaging in public forums, visioning planning efforts, and Friends of the Park groups to ensure that the community’s voice factors into revitalization efforts.

For its part, Park Pride has played a significant role in ensuring that both parks and the community’s wishes are represented in the planning efforts. In 2005, Vine City residents participated in our Park Visioning Program to develop a conceptual plan for Vine City Park, which opened in 2007.

In 2010, Park Pride and partners worked with the community to create the Proctor Creek North Avenue Green Infrastructure Vision (PNA Vision) to address stormwater issues and lack of greenspace in the Vine City and English Avenue neighborhoods.

In 2015, Park Pride supported The Conservation Fund’s efforts to create Lindsay Street Park: the first park in English Avenue and of the PNA Vision. The community-driven process behind Lindsay Street Park was recently recognized with EPA’s Rain Catcher Award.

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Ribbon cutting at Lindsay Street Park, 2015

This year, we returned to Vine City Park, completing an expansion that includes a larger playground, an exercise station and a rain garden. The Greening Youth Foundation played a workforce development role that included local youth in the construction of these parks.

Now, efforts are underway to create a vision for the latest park that is a part of PNA Vision: Boone Park West. While these conversations are emerging, we remain steadfast to the greenspace vision for Atlanta’s Westside, optimistic that the community will continue to be at the center of the discussion, and hopeful to fully harness the power of parks for the betterment of these neighborhoods and all of Atlanta.

Boone Park West Concept_web

Final Vision for Boone Park West will be completed after a comprehensive community engagement process, led by Park Pride with support from The Conservation Fund.

For more information regarding the park referred to as Boone Park West, read the recent news coverage:

English Avenue’s Boone Park West won’t be just another pretty greenspace – Creative Loafing

Park Officials Say New Greenspace will be Catalyst for Westside Changes – Curbed Atlanta

Blighted urban lots to become new Atlanta park – AJC

McDaniel Branch Stormwater Restoration Tour

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Next Saturday, join Park Pride on a tour highlighting the green infrastructure of the McDaniel Branch stormwater project. Designed to mitigate the impacts of stormwater runoff in Atlanta’s in-town neighborhoods, the constructed wetlands central to this project mimic natural systems for managing stormwater.

An added benefit of this project has been the re-visioning of the adjacent Arthur Langford Park!


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The tour is going to be PACKED full of information:

Kevin Burke, Senior Landscape Architect at Atlanta BeltLine, Inc. will unpack the Arthur Langford Park renovation, discussing the park’s background and moving into the park design.

Susan Rutherford and Seham Abdulahad of City of Atlanta Department of Watershed Management will walk us through the background of the McDaniel Branch restoration project and how it’s worked to mitigate the area’s stormwater runoff.

Andrew Walker, also of the Department of Watershed Management, will explore the technical intricacies of the stream’s and pond’s response to the restoration.

LOTS of expertise on the subject matter – an opportunity you will not want to miss!


2014 Parks and Greenspace Conference Recap

On March 31st, Park Pride held the Annual Parks and Greenspace Conference at the Atlanta Botanical Garden. Enough cannot be said about this year’s conference – over 400 community advocates and professionals turned out at the gardens, making this conference the largest and most successful in Park Pride’s history.

One reason for this year’s success is the conference’s extremely relevant topic, Pipes to Parks: Creating Greenspace with Rainwater, focused on green infrastructure. On average, Atlanta receives 50 inches of rainfall yearly. In 2013, however, that much rain fell in the *first eight months* and the year finished at over 66 inches of rain. 2013 was the fifth wettest year on record!

At the same time, continued land development is increasing runoff and creating a greater demand on our over-taxed stormwater systems. Pipes to Parks drilled into the incorporation of water management practices for the improvement of existing parks as well as the creation of new parks.


What exactly IS green infrastructure (G.I.)?

Great question! It’s defined as “Sustainable and natural management techniques that harvest, treat and utilize stormwater runoff in greenspaces such as parks, diverting water away from and reducing a need for traditional ‘gray’ infrastructure (i.e., sewers and drainage pipes).

blog3As Historic Fourth Ward Park demonstrates, green infrastructure  provides cost effective and elegant solutions to large scale stormwater issues that also provide the added benefit of an amazing world-class park! Natural stormwater management strategies have been implemented at Lake Claire Park, New Highland Park, Adair Park, and Peachtree Hills Park among others.

At varying scales, green infrastructure solutions offer greater benefits for our communities than traditional graywater solutions. The Parks and Greenspace Conference presenters spoke to the economic benefits of green infrastructure and employment opportunities created by projects incorporating G.I.’s methods. We heard about how combined sewer overflows and stormwater management challenges have been leveraged as opportunities for parks and greenspaces.

blog4We heard from Brad Lancaster on how to harvest water for FREE and turn flood water into irrigation water. We even saw his bun-dance 🙂

We saw green infrastructure in action during the Piedmont Park walking tour and the other tours leading up to the conference (see photos from Sugar Creek Garden and the Proctor Creek Watershed tours).

We heard from water management experts from all across the USA – from Philly to Milwaukee and New Orleans to Cleveland.

We discussed the partnerships necessary to have green infrastructure solutions implemented, and how stakeholders can layer funding sources for green infrastructure projects.

We also focused on the impaired Proctor Creek Watershed and the blight it’s created in the surrounding communities, and how three nonprofits are making progress to address the watershed’s serious issues by utilizing green infrastructure strategies.

Proctor CreekYou can see the complete program with descriptions from each session on our website.

We also took advantage of the Parks and Greenspace Conference to honor the 2014 Inspiration Award Winners.

It doesn’t need to be said, but the day was PACKED of good info and great greenspace networking!

People are talking about Pipes to Parks: Creating Greenspace with Rainwater:

  • I walked away with a strong sense of community.  Our commonalities are much greater than the things that divide us.” ~ Michael Halicki, Park Pride Executive Director
  • “It was really driven home to me that water conservation and management is everyone’s responsibility. This includes governments to communities, tundra residents to desert residents and all those in between.” ~ Marlina McKay, Park Pride Manager of IT
  • “I always enjoy the broad range of backgrounds that gather at the conference. Designers, interested citizens, and municipalities.” ~ Attendee
  • “The conference had excellent content and the theme was very on point, especially with what is happening in Atlanta.” ~ Attendee

It Doesn’t End Here …

Spring has sprung, and that means Atlanta is well into the rainy season – let’s not forget about all the great take-aways from the conference! Park Pride will be focusing on green infrastructure all year through our continued efforts to restore the Proctor Creek Watershed as well as through a series of FIVE green infrastructure tours! Click on the links below for more information about each tour.

blog5May 10 – McDaniel Branch Stormwater Restoration Tour

June 14 – Clyde Shepherd Nature Preserve and Mason Mill Park Waterworks Tour

July 19 – E.L. Hughie Constructed Treatment Wetlands Tour

August 16 – Columbus Riverfront Tour

September 6 – Proctor Creek Watershed Tour

Save the Date

We’re already gearing up for the 2015 Parks and Greenspace Conference, and you won’t want to miss it! Mark your calendars for Monday, March 23rd at the Atlanta Botanical Garden! Topic announcement coming soon 🙂

Thank You Sponsors!

None of this would have been possible without the support of our conference sponsors! Special gratitude to Cox Conserves for being our Presenting Sponsor, not only for the Parks and Greenspace Conference but for our 25th Anniversary!


Sugar Creek Garden Green Infrastructure Tour

Braving rain, high winds and low temperatures, Dara Suchke from the Wylde Center led community participants on a tour of Sugar Creek Garden highlighting existing green infrastructure and on-going plans to develop the greenspace into a “food park.”


Dara Suchke, Sugar Creek Garden site coordinator

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What is green infrastructure?

Green Infrastructure: Sustainable and natural management techniques that harvest, treat and utilize rain runoff in greenspaces such as parks, bio-swales, constructed wetlands and rooftop gardens, diverting water away from and reducing a need for traditional “gray” infrastructure (i.e. sewers and drainage pipes).

Located on City of Decatur floodplain property, the Wylde Center uses permaculture design techniques to help “slow, spread, and sink” stormwater passing through the site from local residential development before overloading Sugar Creek.  With design assistance from Ben Portwood of Edible Yard and Garden and Daniel Ballard Green Thumbs Up, Sugar Creek Garden has taken advantage of the excess water on the property and turned a problem into an opportunity!

Sugar Creek Garden offers great examples of low cost solutions to effectively managing (and taking advantage of) water on your property.  Planting appropriate plants amongst simple mounded berms to slow down water allows for better detention and percolation of water into the soil.  We learned that a properly designed landscape can withstand both drought and flooding without issue!

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John Ahern, Park Pride’s Volunteer Manager

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Sugar Creek Garden Tour participants

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Ben Portwood of Edible Yard and Garden

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Sugar Creek Garden

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Tour participants

The Sugar Creek Garden Green Infrastructure tour was part of the Parks and Greenspace Conference, whose 2014 theme is Pipes to Parks: Creating Greenspace with Rainwater. The conference focus will be on how communities and municipalities are leveraging green infrastructure technologies to benefit and innovate their parks and greenspaces.

Check out Park Pride’s other March tours of the Proctor Creek and Clear Creek Watersheds and register today!

13th Annual Parks and Greenspace Conference

4673 PP FB event image3Registration for “Pipes to Parks: Creating Greenspace with Rainwater” is OPEN! Early bird pricing ends January 15th, so make your move quickly to claim your spot! REGISTER TODAY

What: The 13th Annual Parks and Greenspace Conference, “Pipes to Parks: Creating Greenspaces with Rainwater”

When: Monday, March 31st 2014 – all day

Where: Atlanta Botanical Garden


Green Infrastructure: Sustainable and natural management techniques that harvest, treat and utilize rainwater runoff in greenspaces such as parks, bio-swales, constructed wetlands and rooftop gardens, diverting water away from and reducing a need for traditional “gray” infrastructure (i.e., sewers and drainage pipes).

All over the country, communities and municipalities are implementing projects that leverage green infrastructure techniques to build innovative parks and greenspaces.

“Pipes to Parks” will highlight existing opportunities for green infrastructure development, inspire cooperation from diverse partners, and influence decision-makers to creatively solve rainwater runoff  concerns while producing wonderful parks!

Featured Keynote speakers include:


David Waggonner, Principal, Waggonner & Ball Architects





Kellie Rotunno, Director of Engineering and Construction, Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District





Brad Lancaster, 2013 Cox Conserves Hero.




This is a highly relevant topic for Atlanta, especially as we’re coming out of one of the wettest seasons on record! Come learn the ways we can deal with it and about the awesome projects currently underway!

Know Something about Green Infrastructure?

Great! Because we’re looking for someone just like you to present at the

13th Annual Parks and Greenspace Conference

Pipes to Parks: Creating Greenspace with Rainwater

When: March 31, 2014

Where: The Atlanta Botanical Garden

What’s this all about?

Green Infrastructure: Sustainable and natural management techniques that harvest, treat and utilize rain runoff in greenspaces such as parks, bio-swales, constructed wetlands and rooftop gardens, diverting water away from and reducing a need for traditional “gray” infrastructure (i.e. sewers and drainage pipes).

All over the country, communities and municipalities are implementing ground-breaking projects that leverage rainwater runoff and green infrastructure techniques to build innovative parks and greenspaces. In addition to improving water quality, these new greenspaces can catalyze redevelopment, mitigate storm water flooding, provide off-road transportation corridors, transform neighborhoods, and often provide community amenities where none existed previously.

Who: Currently, we’re calling for proposals for keynotes, breakout sessions, and tours! Interested? Fantastic. Also, general registration will open in November, 2013.

Check out all the info for proposal submissions HERE.

Proposal deadlines (9/12 for keynote and tour proposals; 11/1 for breakout session speaker proposals) are FIRM – please submit all the required materials on time to be considered!

Spread the good word!