November 25, 2019|By Kelsi Eccles

From the Residents: Why Atlanta’s Newest Park Matters

The Conservation Fund’s Parks with Purpose program works directly with community residents in underserved communities to build and maintain equitable and sustainable local parks in their neighborhoods. Local communities play an essential role in the success of this work. Urban greenspaces not only provide safe places for kids to play and neighbors to gather, but they also reduce stormwater flooding impacts, and employ local residents through a workforce training process.

On November 21, 2019, Atlanta’s newest Park with Purpose, Kathryn Johnston Memorial Park, was officially opened to the public. Two of Atlanta’s most dedicated park advocates proudly attended the ribbon-cutting event, Mamie Lee Moore (affectionately known as Mother Moore) and her daughter Annie Moore. Mother Moore played an integral role in the planning and development of Kathryn Johnston Memorial Park, and Annie has been Park Ambassador at Lindsay Street Park, our first Parks with Purpose site in Atlanta, providing programing and helping maintain the park for nearly a year. 

11 25 19 KJMP Ribbon Cutting Keccles

Community members, elected officials, non-profit partners, and funders joined Mother Moore (seated center) for the ribbon cutting ceremony of Kathryn Johnston Memorial Park. Former Councilman Ivory Lee Young’s wife, Mrs. Shalise Steele-Young, stands in place (fifth from left) to honor the fundamental role that her late husband played in the deployment and naming of this park. Photo by Kelsi Eccles.

Why do they choose to dedicate their time and energy to these public parks and what do they think needs to be done to strengthen community development across neighborhoods? Find out in our interview below.

Kelsi Eccles: Why do you think equitably developed parks like Kathryn Johnston Memorial Park are so important, especially in underserved communities?

Mother Moore: I didn't know anything about parks and equity until the Lindsay Street Park was developed and built right next to my house. My family got involved with it because the site was beginning to grow up with weeds and so forth. We didn't understand why no one was caring for it. And it was then that we learned Atlanta requires its residents to get involved in caring for its parks.

Through that involvement, I was introduced to the question of community and human development through parks. For example, Lindsay Street Park was developed to provide jobs and education about environmental issues that were impacting the community, especially flooding. So from our introduction to that dynamic, I realized that I had another tool to use to help our community be healthy and sustainable. I want to be able to use every single tool that I can to build a healthy, sustainable community in English Avenue and across the rest of the west side [of Atlanta]. So, it was imperative to me to become involved in the visioning for the next Parks with Purpose site—Kathryn Johnston Memorial Park—because I wanted to make sure that we shaped it to have that same philosophical premise, and to have the greatest impact on residents.

KJMP 2T94hw7JSr6p8cntBXH3A thumb 1435Mother Moore provided input on what Kathryn Johnston Memorial Park should include as part of the Park Visioning Process led by Park Pride. She believes in the power of parks to build up community and hopes that they can one day support permanent job opportunities for residents. Photo by Roberta Moore. 

Kelsi: What new opportunities do you think 
Kathryn Johnston Memorial Park will provide the community?

Mother Moore: I don’t think it’s new opportunities, as much as the strengthening of opportunities already here; using parks to build the community and to provide employment for our people. We still have not fully fulfilled that objective in my humble opinion, given what is possible with these parks. And I think we as residents have to define how to make that happen. I don't think it's the sole responsibility of any one party. I think that residents have to make parks an economic opportunity, and a way to develop our people. Park Pride and The Conservation Fund assist us with the financial resources that we need to help do this. And we could always do more if we had the finances for staffing and so forth.

KJMP Annie and Rosario KJMP RMooreThe Community’s vision for this park included many amenities such as a large playground, benches along trails, an adult exercise equipment area and large fields to support their annual Festival of Lights. Photo by Roberta Moore.

What I have learned in work with The Beloved Community, Inc. and Friends of Lindsay Street Park is that if community and people development is to occur in under-resourced communities, we need to be intentional about providing the development resources. Under-resourced communities in transition lack residents with higher incomes and skills for planning and resource development. 

Secondly, there are no organizational infrastructures stepping up to lend support. As such, we need to work with Park Pride and The Conservation Fund and others to include this need as an element in park development. To make the vision possible for paid staff, program finances are also needed so can ensure parks play a role in developing a healthy sustainable community.


Kelsi: Annie, do you feel you've gotten your passion for community service from your mother?

Annie: I think I was naturally an environmentalist. My love for my people did come from my mother. I grew up with people of all races and income levels. That allowed me to love people for who they were, regardless of their circumstances, because your circumstances aren't who you are. Being poor doesn't mean you're a bad person; it just means you don’t have any money. So some of it, yes, is my mother. Some of it is my own watching the world go ‘round.

Mother Moore: 
I think the park has reignited her calling to be a community activist and to proactively work to redevelop the community and help our people.

11 25 19 2018 ParksWithPurpose Peer Exchange Atlanta RobinMcKinney252Annie Moore is the Park Ambassador for Lindsay Street Park and has followed in her mother’s footsteps to care about the people that parks benefit in her community. Annie hopes to work alongside a future Park Ambassador for Kathryn Johnston Memorial Park. Photo by Robin McKinney.

Kelsi: Tell us about your park Ambassador role at Lindsay Street Park. What inspired your dedication and love for it?

Annie: Honestly, one day I just went over there to check it out, because it was a new park. My son and I spent a few minutes cleaning it up, and I was really excited to tell that to Shannon Lee at The Conservation Fund. I said to Shannon, "Hey, we cleaned the park," and she was like, "Yeah, you’re supposed to." She explained to me how the community takes care of their own parks. 

My mother was really the one cleaning the park, I was just tagging along. But then I started doing it more frequently and had fun with it. At some point when Shannon started talking about finding somebody to relieve me of that duty, I didn’t want that. And now we're three years in and I'm fully trained, and I’m actually invested in it and working here. I really stepped into the Ambassador role. I like the information it teaches me; learning about the bioswale, the rain garden, how the water flows, and what we do to stop it. So now I'm an even bigger environmentalist than I was two years ago. So, it might have been an accidental job, but I am not an accidental environmentalist.

Kelsi: How do simple efforts like maintaining the plants or hosting a neighborhood event at a park improve the community, in your opinion?

Annie: It says we care. It shows there's somebody out there who cares about this little poor community in this little itty-bitty neighborhood. That there's a positive experience here that we all get to share.

I’ve been able to watch neighborhood kids grow here and build a relationship with the park. It’s really making a difference in their lives regardless of their race or the fact that they live in an underserved neighborhood.

11 25 19 PwP logoOur Parks with Purpose program focuses on some of our most vulnerable urban communities. Through equitable park development projects and a community-centered approach, we work with residents to transform and restore blighted, inner city properties into vibrant new parks. Not only do these new greenspaces provide safe places for kids to play and neighbors to gather, but they also reduce stormwater flooding impacts, train and employ local residents, provide access to fresh, healthy foods, and create natural habitat in these highly urbanized neighborhoods. We cannot accomplish this work alone. It must be done in partnership with communities, local partners, corporate partners and donors. 

11 25 19 U haul KJMP Partners SFunderburkeThanks to partners like U-Haul, The Conservation Fund continues to support various projects across the nation  including this recent addition to the Parks with Purpose Initiative. Pictured: (From left to right) Atlanta U-Haul Store Owners George, Quinton, and Quincy. Photo by Stacy Funderburke.

To read more, check out these other Parks with Purpose blog posts:

Lindsay Street Park Is a Park with Purpose by Shannon Lee
Greening Youth Plants Equitable Roots by Kelsi Eccles
The Power of Collaborative Learning: 2018 Atlanta Peer Exchange by Stacia Turner