Bridging the Gap: A Recap of Park Pride 2017

Bridging the Gap: A Recap of Park Pride 2017

Last week's Park Pride Conference was a sold-out event exploring “how parks and greenspaces bridge gaps between individuals, communities, political jurisdictions and ecosystems." If you have a foot in the park world as an advocate, a planner, a designer or an operator, this conference fits the bill.

Trails dominated the conversation in the conference, with the Atlanta Beltline being the shining star. What an asset this is to Atlanta! This linear park connects so many things.

  • It connects people to their workplaces, providing a safe, dedicated bike path for daily commuting.
  • It connects visitors to Atlanta, offering a way to experience restaurants, parks and artwork by foot or bike – all without having to experience our legendary traffic.
  • It connects health program providers to their patrons. Flexible greenspaces are the sites of free yoga classes and races.
  • It connects people to each other through events like the lantern parade, festivals and Play Days.
  • It connects people to nature, offering an oasis of green in our concrete city.

Trails are just one example of a connection. Audrey Peterman held the audience captive as she told us about her experience traveling the country to explore our National Parks. Her experiences soaking in the natural world, while meeting people of every walk of life, launched her goal to connect parks to urban communities.

Throughout the conference, I was searching for practical tactics to bring the principal of connection back to my own projects and community. Organizations and people are naturally drawn to something as visionary and successful at the Atlanta Beltline. So how can we achieve similar goals of linking spaces to people and experiences in our suburban communities and on smaller projects? 

One of the most interesting concepts is the “power of 10”. This idea, presented by David Barth, states that a high-performance public space has at least 10 things to do. Picture a green field next to creek with an asphalt path. If this park were next to a school in a city center, it could provide the following: a place to start a run, a venue for a festival, an outdoor learning space for children, a place for a picnic, a venue for outdoor yoga, a place to eat an ice cream cone from downtown, learn about the old mill that used to use the creek water, experience a temporary art installation, experience a “screen on the green” event, or host an outdoor wedding….

People for Public Spaces also provides a helpful infographic that I intend to print and post on my wall as a good reminder of this concept.

This graphic is the result of research on public spaces. The best public spaces, be they parks or other, are comfortable and enjoyable to visit (green quadrant). They provide places for social connection (red) as well as many activities (yellow). Just as important, the place must have good access by trail, sidewalk, vehicle, and/or mass transit (blue). I am grateful to Park Pride for hosting this conference each year. It’s a time for us all to gather and imagine what could be! I am excited to bring this insight into each project we take on here at Foresite Group.

About Erica Madsen

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Erica Madsen, PE, LEED BD+C, is a mother of two girls and a Senior Project Manager for the Greenspace Division at Foresite Group. She graduated from Georgia Institute of Technology in 2005 with a degree in Civil Engineering. Erica enjoys working with people, specifically coordinating with her colleagues, clients, other design team disciplines, and the public. Erica's passion to serve others inspires her to create amazing spaces for the good of the community.