April 16th Virtual Transform Westside Summit: Park Greenspace Supporting Community Health & Wellness on the Westside

The April 16th Virtual Transform Westside Summit featured a panel discussion on Westside greenspaces with: LaChandra Butler-Burks, Deputy Chief Operating Officer, City of Atlanta; George Dusenbury, Georgia State Director, The Trust for Public Land; and Michael Halicki, Executive Director, Park Pride. The conversation was moderated by legacy English Avenue Resident and Westside Future Fund Correspondent, Ebony Ford.

George Dusenbury helped start the discussion by illustrating to viewers how The Trust for Public Land aims to help provide parks which residents not only need but want in their communities. Under his leadership, the organization is helping to alleviate flooding for the 150 acres surrounding Rodney Cook Park through smart planning and infrastructure. In addition to a focus on function, The Trust for Public Land works hand in hand with the community to honor and represent the rich history of the Westside.

Ebony Ford and George Dusenbury talk updates from Rodney Cook Park.

When asked about any efforts to uplift local artists and entrepreneurs, Dusenbury confirmed his team is working with neighborhood representatives to highlight artists starting this summer, thanks in part to a grant from HydroFlask. “It is definitely in the culture, in the blood of The Trust for Public Land,” he said, “to empower communities to take ownership of the park and have the park reflect the passions of the community.” Click here to volunteer with The Trust for Public Land, or donate here.

Ebony Ford and Michael Halicki talk about Park Pride’s efforts on the Westside.

Michael Halicki joined in to share the ways Park Pride works with the community to develop the parks residents want and deserve. “Our approach is really to engage the community in a variety of different programs,” he said. “Our cornerstone is the Friends of the Park Program, so communities can get involved as friends for parks and with all the resources we have.” Park Pride often works to introduce communities to grant opportunities, provide tools for different volunteer projects, and realize community visions through their staff architects. Speaking on how rewarding he finds his work to be, Halicki said:

“The reason I have stayed is not because of my time spent behind a computer screen but actually getting out into the parks, getting to meet the community, and getting to understand the unique character of all different communities throughout our city. I’ve become somewhat of a fan for experience of going out and seeing all these neighborhood parks and nature spaces.”

Kathryn Johnston Memorial Park mural.

Halicki encouraged the community to follow him on Facebook to stay updated on key dates to visit various parks. Get involved by partnering with Park Pride as a volunteer or donor.

LaChandra Butler-Burks, Deputy COO of the City of Atlanta talks greenspace on the Westside.

Deputy COO of the City of Atlanta, LaChandra Butler-Burks joined the conversation recalling her experience uplifting residents suffering from neighborhood flooding near Cook Park. She expressed her joy for Westside families for whom such issues will be far less likely due to the revitalization efforts happening in their neighborhoods.

I was working in the Mayor’s office when the flood happened right where we’re building Rodney Cook Sr. Park. I remember walking through that community offering cleaning supplies and trying to offer food and things to families who were in need…to look now and see what it has become…what was once a place of hurt will soon become a place for fun gatherings for families and friends, a place to celebrate our history, and a place to just have fun as a greenspace.”

Butler-Burks shared updates on Activate ATL, a recently launched effort of the city’s Department of Parks and Recreation aimed at increasing access to exceptional recreational programming, fostering community connections to nature through parks and trails, and ultimately, improving the health, happiness, and resilience of all Atlantans, in all neighborhoods. Learn more and help keep Atlanta green by connecting with Activate ATL today.