A Healthy Dose of Vitamin “N”

by Isabel Daniels

Park Pride advocates access to nature for all

POPULATION EXPERTS are predicting metro Atlanta will continue to grow over the next 10 years to a population of nearly 8 million. That growth comes with its benefits and challenges, including availability and accessibility of greenspace for urban residents. One local non-profit poised to answer the call is Park Pride, an organization dedicated to improving the connection of people to nature through parks.

According to Nature Accessibility Advocate, Adriana Garcia, Park Pride advocates for increased access to public greenspaces and engages communities to unlock the power of parks.

Garcia explains that people not only feel better when they spend time in nature, but research proves they receive health benefits including lowered blood pressure, decreased levels of stress, improved mood and focus, better sleep, boosted immune system and
increased energy levels.

“We follow the motto ‘for the greener good,’ Garcia said. “One of our goals is to make nature accessible to all so that everyone benefits from this free, natural remedy for better health and stronger communities.”

A new initiative for 2020

With support from the Turner Foundation and in partnership with Trees Atlanta and the West Atlanta Watershed Alliance, Park Pride recently hired Garcia to champion an initiative called Nature for All – Atlanta. This initiative will build support, awareness and appetite for equitable access to nature.

“There are barriers to access beyond those that are physical, particularly for communities that have been historically marginalized,” Garcia said. “It takes an organization like Park Pride to ensure that everyone—regardless of race, age, gender, socio-economic status or ability—has access
to nature.”

One barrier is a lack of awareness. If people don’t know where greenspaces are located and what those spaces offer, they are unlikely to speak up in favor of increased access to it. Another barrier is not feeling comfortable or welcome in parks or natural spaces – feelings caused by harassment or historical trauma. Many would also consider spending an afternoon in a park a luxury which they don’t have time (or money) to indulge.

How to get your vitamin “N”

For Garcia, the key to addressing these barriers is “meeting folks where they’re at.” That means actively listening to concerns, stories and histories concerning nature. She is also committed to working directly with community leaders to build trust and authentic relationships.

“One way to flip the script on perceptions and aversions to nature is partnering to create outdoor events that are culturally relevant to diverse communities” said Garcia. “Park Pride leads by example that nature really is for everyone.”

Throughout 2020, Garcia will organize a series of fun, free outings and events such as nature walks, beginner birding and tree talks. “Together we can educate and empower a new cohort of local nature advocates,” she said.

Find details and sign up information at parkpride.org/events.