by Noah Chen
Park Pride is a nonprofit organization dedicated to designing, building, maintaining and renovating parks in and around Atlanta. It is something of a mainstay of the city; it celebrates its 30th anniversary this year.
Friends of the ParkPark Pride’s main program, Friends of the Park, consists of community support groups that develop around a park. Those who use the park work together with Park Pride staff to develop, maintain and improve it.
Its Park Visioning Program helps communities develop plans for their parks.
“We don’t come in and say, ‘This is how you make a park better.’ We listen to the community and work with them to make sure that the park is responding to their unique needs,” said Allison Barnett, Park Pride’s associate director.
Park Pride’s grant programs match money raised by communities for a variety of projects—everything from cleaning up trash to providing new equipment. Its Fiscal Partners Program provides administrative services and accepts donations for Friends of the Parks groups so they don’t have to become nonprofits themselves.
Other services available to Friends of the Parks groups include organized volunteer workdays, monthly park meetings, capacity-building resources and workshops, and free tool loans.
Park Pride’s ways of interfacing with the community don’t end there, however. For example, the Volunteer Program draws on Park Pride’s team of volunteers and community members to assist park beautification and restoration efforts, which, according to executive director Michael Halicki, is not too difficult.
“There’s a very healthy volunteer community in Atlanta,” Halicki said. “I’ve heard it said that the way that people who are new to the city get to know the city is through ‘voluntourism.’” A burgeoning choice for tourists, voluntourism offers opportunities for people to volunteer for a charity and do good while they take time out.
Park Pride’s Community Garden Program has helped establish 22 community gardens in Atlanta so far, and that number continues to grow. Its Adopt-the-Atlanta BeltLine program gets volunteers to help design and maintain a quarter-mile stretch of Atlanta’s beltline for a year.
Advocacy and EducationThe organization’s Advocacy Platform & Initiatives program has hosted mayoral forums during elections to raise awareness about parks and greenspaces. And every May, participants show up to council meetings to advocate for larger park budgets and more. In 2017, the organization helped pass the Georgia Outdoor Stewardship Act, enacted to protect land and water resources, increase park budgets, acquire new trails and parks, and make many other pro-park changes.
Park Pride also hosts “Park Meetings,” networking opportunities that help facilitate community interaction and education, the second Thursday of every month at 7:30 a.m. The meeting location changes every month and can be found on ParkPride.org.
“What keeps me here is that we are working to support community groups,” said Barnett, who is in her 28th year with Park Pride. “People often get involved because they want to do something specific for a park. But throughout the process, what they find is beyond creating the amenity they set out to create.”
“Park Pride has been very instrumental in making sure that we have whatever we need for our park,” said Gwendolyn Stegall, a volunteer and member of a Friends of the Park group. “They go above and beyond the call of duty.”
Park Pride is located at 233 Peachtree Street NE in Atlanta. For more information on Park Pride programs and events, including how to volunteer or sign up for a Friends of the Park group, visit ParkPride.org.