February 7, 2022|By Carmera Thomas

According to Park RX America, the closer we are to green space, the less we suffer from cardiovascular, musculoskeletal, respiratory, neurological, and digestive diseases. Spending time in nature also decreases anxiety, stress, and depression, and is associated with better cognitive development in children. Being outside in a park or near trees can improve children’s school grades, social interactions and behavior.

Kathryn Johnston Park in Atlanta. Photo by Shannon Lee.

However, many communities of color—often in cities—disproportionally lack access to safe, well-maintained green spaces to enjoy these health benefits. Our Parks with Purpose program is working to change that by developing accessible parks in cities across the U.S. We take an intentional, holistic approach to urban conservation by working with community residents, local governments and partner organizations, and philanthropic and business supporters like The JPB Foundation, U-Haul and Pisces, to tailor sustainable green spaces to each place they’ll serve, so that all people can enjoy the benefits of nature.

“We keep the community involved by using [the park] as an educational space and a holistic health and wellness healing place. We have our afternoon yoga programs under the pecan tree. We do aromatherapy and we run our hands through the herbs and we'll take a deep breath in and walk through the forest.”

—Celeste Lomax, steward of the Urban Food Forest at Browns Mill, Atlanta

Learn more below and see which of our Parks with Purpose sites might be near you.


Marlborough Terrace, Kansas City

The vibrant, predominately Black historic community of Marlborough in the southeast section of Kansas City, Missouri faces challenges such as persistent flooding and lack of green space. However, we know that greenspace can often be shaped to provide multiple benefits. Working with the Marlborough Community Coalition, we’ve been able to secure additional funds and help develop outdoor recreation opportunities for Marlborough residents.

The new Marlborough Terrace transformed a green flood utility into an even greater community assets by providing the community a safe place to play, exercise and enjoy nature as well as improved flood protection and climate resiliency. It has been a game changer for health and wellness!

Learn more about Marlborough Terrace here.

Children play at Marlborough Terrace. Photos by Ivan LaBianca.

Anacostia Park, Washington, DC

This historic site has served as an anchor for the southeast Washington, D.C. community, creating a space for employment, education, play, and trauma-informed healing in a safe environment. Designated and maintained by the National Park Service, it is one of D.C.’s largest and most important recreation areas. With over 1,000 acres of green space, abundant trails and river frontage, this space in the heart of the Anacostia community provides a quality, well-maintained haven for nearby residents. Residents from DC Wards 7 and 8 have been trained to supplement National Park Service staff in the park to provide family-oriented programming to and help keep the park clean, safe and enjoyable for fellow community residents and other visitors.


“We can’t adequately build a promising future for Anacostia’s residents until we consider all of the racial inequities and disparities that the structure was built on. The Friends Corps is creating opportunities by tapping into local wisdom and knowledge through a residential model to speak to intentional rebuilding with community interest in mind.”

—Richard Trent, executive director of Friends of Anacostia Park, Washington D.C.

Learn more about Anacostia Park here.

Anacostia Park. Photo by Mike Maguire.

Mattie Freeland Park, Atlanta

The story of Mattie Freeland Park is unique, inspiring, and all about community. This special place in Atlanta’s English Avenue neighborhood commemorates the late Mattie Freeland, the community’s matriarch who used her voice and influence to help others. She inspired the transformation of an abandoned car lot across the street from her home into the community’s first park. Over time, community members have worked to expand that lot into meaningful green space for community events. Sod, trees, even playground equipment were donated and soon the vacant lots began to resemble a park. The community now hosts block parties, summer concerts, an annual Christmas tree lighting, and other events that support their health, wellness, and togetherness.

In 2015, we acquired the property so it could become part of the Atlanta Park System as a permanently protected community green space. Today, we continue to work with the City and the Friends of Mattie Freeland Park, including Mattie Freeland’s granddaughter, to ensure this space remains an asset to those who live near and love this park.

Learn more about Mattie Freeland Park here.

Written By

Carmera Thomas

Carmera Thomas-Wilhite is the Director of Urban Conservation Initiatives at The Conservation Fund. Carmera serves on many boards and committees dedicated to inclusivity in the outdoors and engaging in local community efforts to build capacity around healthy, thriving and sustainable communities. She grew up and currently lives in Maryland, where she enjoys camping and spending time with her family and friends, especially in nature.