Atlanta city council members on Monday voted to spend $2.8 million on park improvements, much of which will go to East Atlanta.
At the ballot box last year, Atlanta voters approved referendums to put $750 million toward transportation, recreation, public safety and art projects. The funding approved Monday will go to the nonprofit Park Pride, which will oversee how the money is spent in neighborhood parks.
District 5 in East Atlanta was donated the biggest portion of funds — $1 million to be divvied up across the area’s 26 parks.
“The health and vitality of a community can be measured by the growth and preservation of its greenspaces,” said Council member Liliana Bakhtiari, who represents the district. “Residents voted last year for neighborhood improvements, and we are immediately putting those dollars to work.”
The boost comes as Atlanta residents from neighborhoods across the city voiced concerns over the poor upkeep of their favorite parks and asked local leaders to increase funding for maintenance.
Neighborhood park groups said that use of Atlanta parks skyrocketed during the pandemic when residents were forced to socially distance and could only frequent outdoor spaces. But after COVID-19 cases subsided, they said, parks became increasingly cluttered as maintenance schedules seemingly slowed.
Winfrey Young, chair of the Friends of Pittman Park, said that despite improvements to amenities made through grants to the Pittsburgh neighborhood park, “the problem is that people are walking over trash to come to the park,” she said.
“We deserve the same amount of attention as Piedmont Park,” Young told members of the Community Development and Human Services community last week.
Park advocates said while the $2.8 million is significant, the money is narrow in use and doesn’t cover day-to-day needs. Park Pride’s Executive Director Michael Halicki told the AJC that the city is “not taking care of basics” when it comes to maintaining Atlanta parks as they are.
“These dollars that are being allocated today, none of those can be spent toward staffing for maintenance. They’re all for capital improvements,” he said.
Halicki said that increasing annual funding for the Department of Parks and Recreation to bolster staff would be a step in the right direction toward cleaning up the city’s parks.
“Looking at the maintenance issue, it’s complex and I’ve heard it said before that whenever you look at the annual budgeting process, that when times are tough, parks are the first to be cut,” he said.
Who gets the money?
- District 1: $300,000
- District 4: $250,000
- District 5: $1 million
- District 9: $500,000
- District 10: $250,000
- District 11: $250,000
- District 12: $250,000
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Credit: Courtesy of House Select Committee