This year was the highest attendance in the Conference’s 23-year history. (Photo by Park Pride.)

On Monday, March 25, over 500 park experts and advocates came together for Park Pride’s Annual Parks & Greenspace Conference at the Atlanta Botanical Garden. With the theme Parks for All: Intention to Action, speakers focused on actionable solutions to park equity issues and explored how governments, nonprofits and community members can work together to implement creative solutions.   

An Atlanta-based nonprofit for 35 years, Park Pride engages communities to activate the power of parks through capital improvements, advocacy, volunteerism and educational opportunities.  

This was the highest attendance in the Conference’s 23-year history— with park professionals, elected officials, greenspace advocates and community leaders coming together for an inspiring day of insightful presentations, thoughtful discussions and making connections to further the shared goal of elevating and improving local parks.  

Attendees enjoyed presentations from park experts from around the city and nation, including three keynote speakers, Corey Wilson, Superintendent of the Recreation and Park Commission for the Parish of East Baton Rouge; David A. Rubin, Founding Principal of the DAVID RUBIN Land Collective; and Priya Nanjappa, Vice President of Conservation Programs at the National Parks Conservation Association.  

This year’s keynote speakers include David Rubin (Founding Principal of DAVID RUBIN Land Collective), Priya Nanjappa (Vice President of Conservation Programs at the National Parks Conservation Association) and Corey Wilson (Superintendent of the Recreation and Park Commission for the Parish of East Baton Rouge). (Photo by Park Pride.)

The speakers had varying backgrounds and reasons for working in parks, but the common thread was clear— parks touch every part of our lives and to have a healthy, thriving community, all residents must have easy access to a quality park.  

“When I think about my iPhone, it’s not just a phone— It’s a calendar, camera and GPS. That’s why it’s so valuable,” Wilson said during his presentation. “[Similarly,] there’s so many benefits to parks— health and wellness, environmental benefits, economic impact and educational opportunities. You don’t even have to go to a park to benefit from a park. Our work is to let folks know that parks are more important than the iPhone.”  

Atlanta is home to over 400 parks, and, for Park Pride, the goal isn’t to build new parks but to invest in and activate existing ones. Part of moving from intention to action means ensuring historical parks are well preserved and cared for.   

Preserving and restoring our park’s historical features allows us to reflect on our past while also working together to create a shared future.  

At the heart of the parks movement, though, are the efforts of local park leaders who nurture the bond between parks and communities.   

Through the 2024 Inspiration Awards, Park Pride honored six park champions who go above and beyond for their local parks. These are devoted park stewards who inspire others to improve public parks and greenspaces and raise awareness about the power of parks, so all communities have outdoor spaces that reflect their unique needs and desires. Park Pride’s work is amplified by the efforts of local leaders like the Inspiration Award winners.  

The 2024 winners include:   

  • Brenda Busby, Frazier-Rowe Park (DeKalb County)  
  • Christi Jackson, Historic Washington Park (City of Atlanta)  
  • Gwen Stegall, Hairston Park (DeKalb)  
  • Jack White, John C. Howell Park (Atlanta)  
  • Pat Reynolds, Zonolite Park (DeKalb) and Orme Park (Atlanta)  
  • Dr. Yomi Noibi, ECO-Action (statewide) and Four Corners Park (Atlanta) 
Park Pride’s 2024 Inspiration Award winners include (L to R) Jack White, Dr. Yomi Noibi, Brenda Busby, Gwendolyn Stegall, Christi Jackson and Pat Reynolds. (Photo by Park Pride.)

Hannah E. Jones is Park Pride’s Marketing & Communications Manager. Park Pride is a member of the Olmsted Network.