The importance of creating new parks in Atlanta

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Increasing the density of compact urban places is essential for creating more sustainable cities, particularly in a growing population. One important way to make those compact places more appealing and livable is with public parks.

Many studies have pointed out the benefits of green spaces in cities. They clean rain water in urban watersheds, they promote exercise and good mental health, and they’ve even been cited as a deterrent in criminal activity.

There’s no doubt that Atlanta earns the title “city in a forest” because of our canopy of trees lining our streets, with much credit to the great work done by Trees Atlanta. But don’t let that greenery above your head fool you — we still have some work to do when it comes to creating public green space on the ground and giving communities the full benefits of shared parkland.

A new report from the Trust for Public Land shows that, though Atlanta’s “Parkscore” ranking has improved since last year, it still has a below-average amount of park space. As this news piece points out: “5.3 percent of Atlanta’s city area is devoted to parkland, compared to the national ParkScore average of more than 10 percent.”

Here’s a great interactive map from the Parkscore website of Atlanta’s park space.

Atlanta is moving in the right direction with the Beltline set to create more public parks on the route. But for maximum impact, Atlanta needs to make sure that all places with compact density are served with parks — that’s happening on the NE section of the Beltline for sure, but I think more work could be done elsewhere.

Buckhead Village and West Midtown are two spots that come to mind immediately as lacking good parks and I know there are others.

Photo of the Carter Center park by me!

Incredible time-lapse image of Atlanta’s metro sprawl

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Google’s Earth Engine lets you view time-lapse satellite images from 1984-2012. It’s an amazing tool for seeing the expansion of our built environments over that time.

Take a look at the changes to the land in this time-lapse of the northern part of Metro Atlanta.

The sprawling development of the area, and the resulting loss of green space, is frightening to see, particularly with reports of a rebound in single-family home construction pointing the way toward continued sprawl.

Here’s some sobering info from the New Georgia Encyclopedia on our urban sprawl and the damage that happens when urbanization of land outpaces population growth via low-density development:

Metropolitan Atlanta is the least densely populated metropolitan area in the United States…Between 1982 and 1992 the amount of greenspace lost to development in the Atlanta metropolitan area increased by 38 percent.

Since 1987 the Atlanta region has lost an average of fifty acres of tree cover per day. Much of this loss is a direct result of encroachment by low-density sprawl development into forested and agricultural areas. This deforestation and loss of vegetation, coupled with increased pavement and rooftops, creates a “heat island” effect (temperatures can be up to twelve degrees higher in heavily paved areas of Atlanta) and contributes to the region’s air pollution problems as well.

Instead of getting excited about a rebound in single-family home construction, Metro leaders need to get interested in accommodating population growth and new development in a way that reduces environmental harm. The practices of the last few decades have caused too much damage. Instead of repeating those mistakes, we need to learn from them and commit to compact, walkable infill.

The need for public green space in Atlanta’s Buckhead neighborhood 
The director of Livable Buckhead spoke recently about the need for more green space in that Atlanta neighborhood. It’s a problem that is long overdue for a solution. 
Here’s a quote:

[Director] Starling said it’s a big problem and something the group wants to remedy through its Buckhead Collection initiative.
“Our festivals are held in the parking lot of our favorite mall and that’s probably not the best ambiance,” Starling said.
Starling also updated the BBA on the group’s efforts to create a 5 mile Georgia 400 trail that will eventually connect to the Atlanta BeltLine project. 

Buckhead has much more of a suburban feel than it should.  Even with two MARTA stations, the area resembles the subdivisions and office parks and shopping malls of the suburbs — except all much bigger and nicer and closer together. But still detached and insular.
The lack of  a marquis public park for Buckhead’s events is something that has always made it kind of an oddball  among Atlanta neighborhoods and a nice public park will help remedy that. Buckhead has great potential to be a walkable, transit-focused, livable urban space.
I’m glad to know that leaders are aware of the greenspace problem and are working on it.
h/t Curbed Atlanta | Rendering of 400 ped/bike trail from Reporter Newspapers

The need for public green space in Atlanta’s Buckhead neighborhood 

The director of Livable Buckhead spoke recently about the need for more green space in that Atlanta neighborhood. It’s a problem that is long overdue for a solution. 

Here’s a quote:

[Director] Starling said it’s a big problem and something the group wants to remedy through its Buckhead Collection initiative.

“Our festivals are held in the parking lot of our favorite mall and that’s probably not the best ambiance,” Starling said.

Starling also updated the BBA on the group’s efforts to create a 5 mile Georgia 400 trail that will eventually connect to the Atlanta BeltLine project. 

Buckhead has much more of a suburban feel than it should.  Even with two MARTA stations, the area resembles the subdivisions and office parks and shopping malls of the suburbs — except all much bigger and nicer and closer together. But still detached and insular.

The lack of  a marquis public park for Buckhead’s events is something that has always made it kind of an oddball  among Atlanta neighborhoods and a nice public park will help remedy that. Buckhead has great potential to be a walkable, transit-focused, livable urban space.

I’m glad to know that leaders are aware of the greenspace problem and are working on it.

h/t Curbed Atlanta | Rendering of 400 ped/bike trail from Reporter Newspapers

New pocket park coming to Midtown
The Atlanta Business Chronicle reports the good news that a new pocket park is planned for Midtown Atlanta. It will be located on West Peachtree near 18th Street, next to John Marshall Law School.
From the article:

The park, which will open in spring, replaces two dilapidated, abandoned buildings…the project will preserve a large Magnolia tree and add green space, outdoor furnishings and space for students to study in the park.

I’d love to see other plans for pocket parks like this throughout intown Atlanta. These have become popular ways for cities to add green relief for urban dwellers.

New pocket park coming to Midtown

The Atlanta Business Chronicle reports the good news that a new pocket park is planned for Midtown Atlanta. It will be located on West Peachtree near 18th Street, next to John Marshall Law School.

From the article:

The park, which will open in spring, replaces two dilapidated, abandoned buildings…the project will preserve a large Magnolia tree and add green space, outdoor furnishings and space for students to study in the park.

I’d love to see other plans for pocket parks like this throughout intown Atlanta. These have become popular ways for cities to add green relief for urban dwellers.