Mayor Dickens creates ‘Green Cabinet’ of environmental advocates

Flanked by over a dozen of the city’s leading environmental advocates, Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens on Wednesday announced the formation of new advisory council to help guide the city on issues related to greenspace and the environment.

The mayor’s Greenspace Advisory Council, which Dickens dubbed his “Green Cabinet,” will meet every few months and includes the leaders of 13 local organizations, including Trees Atlanta, Park Pride and The Trust for Public Land.

The mayor also heralded the launch of Park Pride’s latest grant effort that will award a total of $2.3 million in grants to 24 neighborhoods in Atlanta and unincorporated DeKalb for park improvements. Sixty percent of the grants will go to low-income neighborhoods.

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Dickens said the council will be a resource for the city to help it stay on track following its latest 10-year master plan. It will provide advice on both growing the parks system and updating current facilities, as well as the implementation of the city’s upcoming infrastructure bond — which Dickens said will be “Atlanta’s largest investment ever in our parks and recreation system.”

The formation of the council comes as the city and the Atlanta Police Foundation prepare to kick off design and construction of a new police and fire training center on city-owned land in southwest DeKalb County. Opponents of the plan for the new center expressed worry about the environmental impacts of the development in the area known as the South River Forest, near the old Atlanta prison farm.

Dickens, who voted in support of the center last year, said the council has already talked about the South River Forest and how the city can best protect greenspace there as the new center is built. The City Council scaled back the plan for the center last year to ensure that most of the space around the old Atlanta Prison Farm is preserved. The city plans to build on 85 acres.

“I know that this group has thoughts about it and they want to make sure we are protecting the whole southeast area from Thomasville Heights, down to and including the forest,” Dickens said, “and doing it with the memories of what has happened in mind, (and) make sure we never allow people to forget what has happened there.”