By John Schaffner
After three years of study and planning, the Atlanta City Council is being asked to approve in November the recommendations in a 60-page document that outlines Atlanta’s Project Greenspace, with a goal of obtaining 40 percent tree cover in the city.
The problem: there is no budget for greenspace acquisitions.
Mary McCracken, who was hired within the city’s Planning Department to coordinate Project Greenspace, explained to the board of Neighborhood Planning Unit B in early October that it is hoped the full proposed action plan will be adopted by City Council by the end of November.
However she admitted there was reluctance from some council members about approving the plan when there is no budget to carry it out.
She told the group she had been hired a year ago to work on the project but could not move into her office until this summer because her position was one of those furloughed due to the city budget crisis.
McCracken passed out a four-page summary of the report that had been prepared by outside consultants Wallace Roberts & Todd LLC. Among the issues pointed out in the report are:
• Atlanta has less greenspace than other cities of comparable size and density.
• Atlanta’s population has diverse needs for recreational facilities and programs that are not being met.
• Maintenance and public safety in Atlanta’s parks need continuing improvement.
• The positive economic impacts of greenspace include increased property values, economic activity and reduced costs for energy, healthcare and engineered infrastructure.
• Population growth is magnifying the need to address park and greenspace issues.
• Funding for Atlanta’s parks and greenspaces needs to be significantly increased.
One of the goals outlined in the proposal is to increase the acreage of greenspace and improve its distribution throughout the city. It recommends protecting a minimum of 20 percent of the city’s land area as greenspace and providing a minimum of 10 acres of public parkland per 1,000 residents. It proposes providing publicly accessible greenspace within a half-mile walk of every resident.
Other goals outlined in the report include:
• Establish greenspace system connections with greenway corridors, multi-use trails and complete streets.
• Maintain parks and recreational facilities to “best-in-class” standards.
• Make sure greenspaces are safe and secure.
• Protect at least 75 percent of environmentally sensitive lands via ownership and/or development regulations.
• Protect and restore Atlanta’s tree canopy in order to meet a target of 40 percent coverage.
• Integrate Atlanta’s history, cultural heritage and arts into greenspaces.
• Establish sustainable sources of funding for greenspace acquisition.
• Promote public/private partnerships to grow and manage the greenspace system, including the dedication of greenspace within new development and redevelopment projects.