Atlanta, DeKalb parks get record $4M in grants
Park Pride helping underfunded areas also get playgrounds, nicer green spaces.
Cascade Springs Nature Preserve plans to use its grant to build overlooks to the falls at the preserve. COURTESY OF ATLANTA TRAILS

More than three dozen parks across Atlanta and DeKalb County will receive a record-setting $3.9 million in grants this year from Park Pride, an Atlanta-based nonprofit.

Among the projects are new playgrounds, trail signage, accessible parking and walkways — all improvements pitched by community groups interested in sprucing up their neighborhood parks.

Founded in 1989, the group has awarded grants for the last 20 years.

The latest round is the largest ever, the result of a capital campaign that has allowed Park Pride to both increase the grant totals as well as expand its investment in historically underfunded communities.

Traditionally, community groups had to match Park Pride’s grants. The requirement shut out a lot of neighborhoods that didn’t have the resources to raise funds, Park Pride Executive Director Michael Halicki said.

He said it became clear in 2020 that the nonprofit needed to change its approach. When the pandemic started, people turned to their neighborhood parks as an escape. But it also became clear that not all neighborhoods had access to quality green spaces.

In 2021, Park Pride dropped the matching requirement for projects in neighborhoods where more than half of residences are at or below 80% of the area median income.

“We need to make sure we’re meeting communities where they’re at,” Halicki said. “It’s as much about community empowerment as it is about parks and green space.”

Park Pride’s grants are funded through public and private sources. The City of Atlanta contributes and several City Council members have earmarked additional money for the grants.

“We strive to build a world-class parks system in Atlanta, one that is safe, accessible and enriching for residents and visitors,” Atlanta Parks and Recreation Commissioner Justin Cutler said in a statement. “Park Pride is helping make that happen by working with communities to realize their park plans and dreams.”

This year’s grant recipients have proposed a wide range of projects. Grants will cover the costs of playground equipment at several parks, including DeKalb Memorial Park, Lang Carson Park and Perkerson Park. Melvin Drive Park is getting funding for a discgolf course, and Phoenix II Park will get pickleball courts.

Other projects are designed to increase accessibility by adding walkways, benches and ADA parking.

“The different improvements are the things that people felt like right now is what we really need,” Halicki said.