Looking Back at 2020: A Breath for Piedmont Park
In most ways, 2020 was a bleak year for Atlanta, our country and our world. COVID-19 jumbled our daily routines and daily pleasures.
While 2020 will be forever known for its challenges and disruptions, one of the bright discoveries last year was the deep recognition of the value of our public parks. For Atlanta, Piedmont Park remained open throughout the entire year for anyone to come and escape their homes, exercise and connect with nature and other people, all at a safe distance.
Piedmont Park remained a top destination in 2020, but in many ways the Park looked different. Instead of visitors flocking from all over to attend one of the many festivals, our neighbors, residents and local explorers re-discovered this beautiful, passive greenspace. We saw more roller skates, picnic blankets and kites, the classic items that pull our heartstrings and inspire us to play. Visitors did not necessarily congregate in any one area, and the impact on the grounds were minimal.
The Park is known for the plethora of activities and events it provides to our city. Some festivals attract upwards to 100,000 people while many others are much smaller. However, cumulative wear and tear occurs when events are set up in the same areas week after week.
The Piedmont Park Conservancy and the City took advantage of the break in events to deep clean and rehabilitate some of the worn areas to both improve the visual appeal and resiliency of the grounds, particularly for the more trafficked areas in the Meadow and Oak Hill. The timing and execution of aeration, fertilization, mowing and other maintenance tasks were based on ideal horticulture and agronomy schedules instead of avoiding events. Many of the areas that had been worn down to dirt are once again covered with beautiful Hybrid Bermuda grass.
The weather also made a big impact. In contrast to the distress of so many other parts of 2020, the weather was near perfect for improving the grounds. Rainfall came in intervals that was frequent enough, but not too much at one time. Thunderstorms helped with nitrogen fixation which is nature’s way of helping to fertilize the Park.
This past year, I have been struck by the physical beauty of Piedmont Park. The beautiful condition of Piedmont Park is stunning, maybe the most beautiful I have ever seen.
The Conservancy has been able to cultivate Piedmont Park’s landscape in a way we never have before. We hope 2020 will serve as a case study of how beautiful and valuable Piedmont Park’s greenspace can be when provided proper recovery, great weather and a lot of love. Even in festival use areas, proper land rest and turf recovery periods can help the Park stay vibrant and green all year.
Parks are not passive investments, they’re active investments. The festivals and events will eventually come back. We will see a day, maybe not so far away, where Piedmont Park once again attracts festivals, concerts and other large events. We will use what we learned this past year to work with our friends at the City on caring for Piedmont Park for both events and our local citizens. We are proud to be a city partner and know that when conservancies and government work together, public spaces will thrive.
Until then, we are thankful to see Piedmont Park experience a much needed rest, while also serving such a critical role in our daily lives.
Author: Mark Banta, President/CEO, Piedmont Park Conservancy
1,000 Mile Bike Challenge – Through This Pandemic by Frank Williams
Our hearts were warmed when we heard about Mr. Frank William’s 1,000-mile COVID Bike Challenge in Piedmont Park. At the age of 73, Mr. Frank not only met his goal, but did it in a third of the time he aimed for!
Hear Mr. Frank’s story of how Piedmont Park saved him through the pandemic when all seemed lost.
People of all ages rely on Piedmont Park as their outdoor refuge. Maybe Piedmont Park has also been your sanctuary this year. The Park has plenty of space, and we as the Piedmont Park Conservancy welcome all.
Keep Piedmont Park Your Lifeline
In the most challenging times, Piedmont Park depends on the commitment of the Conservancy, its donors and its volunteers to keep it thriving. If you are able, please make a gift to the Piedmont Park Conservancy and keep Piedmont Park a lifeline for you and so many others.
Help Me Help the Park: Erin Yabroudy
Letter from Piedmont Park Conservancy Board Member Erin Yabroudy
This year has brought so many challenges that no one could have ever expected. Like so many others, I have faced uncertainty, had to adapt and pause for deep reflection. But through it all, Piedmont Park has remained a staple for my family, as I’m sure it has for you.
When I walk through the Park, I see a space that welcomes all. I believe that Piedmont Park is where people from all walks of life can come together. It’s also a place where we can safely make precious memories with loved ones, be active or take moments to clear our heads when the world around us seems uncertain.
Thanks to you, the Piedmont Park Conservancy is able to maintain a space that is safe, welcoming, and free for everyone to enjoy. But, the Conservancy needs your help more than ever. To help preserve and uphold the beauty of our Park, please join me in making an additional gift today. if you are able.
And thanks to a generous gift by two anonymous board members, all gifts made through July 31, up to $50,000, will be matched! I’ve increased my support this year to help the Park in these uncertain times. Please consider doing so as well – make your gift today.
Thank you for your continued support. Without people like you, none of this would be possible.
Thank you in advance,
Piedmont Park Conservancy Board Member
P.S. To hear more about why our family cares about Piedmont Park, enjoy the video below.
The Future is Green (Video)
As our community begins to look forward, we have learned that there are things we can control and things we cannot. Making sure that we protect and invest in Piedmont Park is something we can control together as a community. We ask that you look toward this future with us.
Piedmont Park adds value to our city in many ways such as boosting our economy, contributing to our physical and mental health, and serving as Atlanta’s epicenter of culture. We must gather our resources together to preserve and enhance the Park so that we can ensure a bright and healthy future for our city. We believe that the success and health of future generations of Atlantans is linked to the prosperity and overall welfare of Piedmont Park.
This is why the Conservancy works everyday to develop Piedmont Park as a cleaner, greener and healthier piece of essential urban infrastructure. For us to continue to provide this vibrant pathway of sustainable health and success for our community, we need your support. We rely on you to help us fulfill our mission of inspiring life in the heart of Atlanta.
Consider making a donation today and help us ensure that ‘Our Future is Green.’
Winter Works (Video)
Winter is the Conservancy’s time to shine! From restoring playgrounds and historical buildings to planting trees and raking leaves (so many leaves…), the Piedmont Park Conservancy is as busy as ever.
The winter months are crucial to building the foundation of a healthy park that leads to a beautiful spring, summer and fall to be enjoyed by all visitors.
“We are a 365 days a year Park.”
See what members of the Piedmont Park Conservancy operations team had to say about maintaining the Park in the winter.
Year-round support from park passionate individuals is essential to help us achieve our mission of keeping Piedmont Park clean, green, safe and active.
Jeff Galloway’s Piedmont Park Memories
Jimmy Carter. Changing The Peachtree Road Race Course. A New Relay Race.
I “discovered” Piedmont Park by accident. It was 1960, and I was warming up for my race at a track meet at Grady Stadium. I was nervous, the track was crowded and I wanted to run away from the crowd to settle my mind. I ran across 10th Street and was drawn into the calming natural environment of Piedmont Park. I returned to the track and ran one of my best races that year.
Life experiences during the next decade brought me to Connecticut for college, sailing with the United States Navy off Vietnam, Tallahassee for graduate school and the Olympics in Munich, Germany. By 1975, I was drawn back to Atlanta and looking for the best location for my running store: Phidippides – the original running store in Atlanta, and in the United States.
Before choosing from three possible locations, I took a three-mile run around each store. Once I ran from Ansley Mall along Piedmont Road and found the Park, my choice was made. I remembered my run in high school and was excited to have the wonderful loops and fields so close to the store.
“Regardless of the number of stress items on my “to do list,” the Park’s calming hormones worked their magic as soon as I entered the tree-lined sanctuary.”
As Phidippides became the headquarters for the Peachtree Road Race during the big growth years of 1975-1978, I ran many miles throughout every area of the Park because I had to squeeze in my run during hectic work days. Regardless of the number of stress items on my “to do list,” the Park’s calming hormones worked their magic as soon as I entered the tree-lined sanctuary.
During the first two years that I served on the management team of “The Peachtree”, the race finished at 5 Points in the downtown district. As I was looking for ways to improve the course, I was inspired to change the finish to Piedmont Park during my one of runs from Phidippides. With the help of Director Bill Neace and our Public Affairs Director Bob Brennan, we were able to make this move which is now noted as one of the race highlights.
A special sighting occurred on one my pre-dawn runs in 1978 along Lake Clara Meer. There was a vehicle ahead with some runners in a tight group headed toward me. Since vehicles were not allowed in the park, I was curious. On the outside of this group were several huge guys intently looking at me. As the group ran under a streetlight, I saw President Jimmy Carter on his morning run!
“As the group ran under a streetlight, I saw President Jimmy Carter on his morning run!”
While Piedmont Park was a wonderful resource during the ‘70s and ‘80s, there were a number of problems including areas that were not very safe. This was BC: “Before Conservancy,” which was founded in 1989. There has been a dramatic upgrade in the Park, including safety, due to the work of this great organization.
My favorite run into the Park starts on the BeltLine behind Ansley Mall and into Piedmont Park without having to cross a street. I love to see the dogs in the dog park and then run over to Park Tavern and up to Lake Clara Meer. My Galloway Training Program members have run thousands of miles in Piedmont Park. I trained for my personal marathon record there (2:16), finding an ideal variety of flat and rolling terrain all inside the Park.
My wife Barbara and I are proud to host a 5K, half marathon and kids runs on December 14 and 15 with the major beneficiary being the Piedmont Park Conservancy. This year, we have an exciting new relay division of the half marathon for walkers and runners during the Northside Hospital Orthopedic Institute’s Half Marathon, powered by Jeff Galloway. Gather your friends, co-workers, and family members to enter a team. The last segment is less than three miles and entirely inside beautiful Piedmont Park. I will be at the finish line for pictures and congratulations.
I have run in many great parks across the globe. Piedmont Park is truly “world class” due to the work of the Conservancy. Join us for our 6th Annual Race Weekend and support this wonderful organization. Register today at www.jeffgalloway131.com.
Author: Jeff Galloway
Author Bio: Native Atlantan Jeff Galloway ran in the Munich Olympics, founded the first running store in the US (Phidippides), has coached over a million runners and walkers, and directs the Northside Hospital Orthopedic Institute’s Half Marathon, powered by Jeff Galloway which finishes in Piedmont Park.
The Red Leash
Liz was smitten with Cooper the second she saw him. A friend told her that the local animal shelter was in the midst of an overcrowding problem and needed more than a few dogs to be adopted, so they were offering half off adoptions that weekend. Eager for a fur friend to keep her company, Liz pounced on the opportunity.
Cooper was seated towards the back of a small cage. The pup, a yellow lab with floppy ears that nearly covered his eyes, perked up when he spotted Liz. It was as if Cooper knew she was there to get him.
The cage opened, Liz picked him up and fastened a red leash to his new collar.
Liz lived in a sleek, high-rise apartment in Midtown. Their daily excursions consisted of a morning and nightly walk around the concrete jungle. Whenever Liz so much as looked in the direction of the red leash, Cooper would jump with excitement. He was so excited on these walks that he’d pull and pull away from the leash, eager for a chance to discover the world around him.
As time went on, however, the pulling began to lessen. The red leash was no longer consistently taut.
Liz noticed this change of demeanor in Cooper, from the lively ball of energy that happily accompanied her on morning strolls, to something more somber…sadder. Liz asked friends in the area what she should do. They suggested things like changing his diet, buying him new toys, and giving him treats more often. She tried them all, but nothing seemed to work.
Her parents called to let her know about a dog park they’d heard about at Piedmont Park. Fortunately, the Park was only a few short blocks away!
She hurried home and got Cooper’s red leash from its hook.
When they took a turn they didn’t usually take on their walks, Cooper peered back at Liz to make sure they weren’t lost. He’d been his usual self—calm, slightly subdued.
Finally, they caught sight of the dog park, a huge expanse of mulched land, shaded by surrounding trees. Liz opened the gates to the park one by one. When they were inside, she reached down to unclip Cooper’s red leash. Cooper stood there.
Having become so used to keeping his red leash on while outside, Cooper didn’t realize it was off!
Liz encouraged him to go play with a little nudge. When he realized that his collar wasn’t connected to his leash, he barked happily and made a mad dash for a group of other fur friends huddled around the agility course. This was the most spirited Liz had seen him in weeks! He was running around, sticking his nose in new places and wagging his tail so hard, Liz thought it might fly off. She placed the red leash in her purse and watched Cooper explore.
Nowadays, Liz and Cooper visit the dog park on a weekly basis. Cooper couldn’t be happier with their new routine. He finally feels free to explore and is always ready to discover something new in nature. His red leash is no longer holding him back.
Greenspace is imperative in any large city. Benefits like improved air quality, resource conservation, urban beautification and space for anyone to roam around freely surrounded by nature are what make having it so important. The Piedmont Park Conservancy is proud to be a part of the effort to keep greenspaces like Piedmont Park safe, well-maintained and open for all to enjoy—including pups like Cooper!
Her Happy Place
Leaning forward and lacing her shoes, Sylvia Russell feels the calm breeze of fall hit her face.
Looking around, she sees a child gazing at her father with arms wide open. A biker leaves a swell of wind when she dashes past on a winding path.
Tap. Tap. Tap. At the Active Oval, Sylvia’s shoes hit the gravel as she begins her run.
Ever since she was diagnosed with breast cancer, Sylvia has been faced with a choice: take medications or do high intensity workouts to tackle the increased chance of osteoporosis.
“It makes a difference that I have Piedmont Park,” Russell says as she explains her choice of working out. “I don’t even feel like I am exercising.”
Her heartbeat increasing, Sylvia’s busy mind begins to slow down and find focus.
“Whatever problem I am facing or stress I’m feeling when I enter the park, by the time I leave, the load seems lighter,” says Russell, “that’s why I call Piedmont Park my happy place.”
As Sylvia finishes her final lap around the Active Oval, she looks around at all the people in the Park. “As I frequent this park, I see all walks of life come through here,” she says, “and it makes me feel good; it’s how I want the world to be.”
Like thousands of other Atlantans, Sylvia has found a place in beautiful Piedmont Park that makes health and exercise an enjoyable experience.
It’s because of the work of the Piedmont Park Conservancy that Sylvia and others have access to a 208 acre park that is beautiful, clean, safe and active. The Piedmont Park Conservancy, a nonprofit organization, raises and invests $3 million annually to enhance and program this historic green space. Many do not realize that the Conservancy relies heavily on philanthropic donations as it does not receive direct funding from events or festivals.
Though, “to remain beautiful, the park needs help,” Russell says. “It depends on the contributions of the community. It feels free because you don’t have to pay to get in here, but it’s costly to run a park. And it’s worth it. It’s an investment for Midtown and Atlanta.”
Take pride and give promise to Piedmont Park by making a donation to the Piedmont Park Conservancy.
Seven Men. 208 Acres. One Big Impact.
Every morning around 7:30am, seven men wearing “Piedmont Park Conservancy” imprinted on their chest set out on golf carts, trucks and mowers to tackle the 200 plus acres of beautiful Piedmont Park. With the sun slowly rising, the smell of morning dew and a small collection of people seen jogging through the Park, each man starts the day on his own mission. Some will pick up rakes and blowers. Others will count out screws and wires. A few will check systems and computers, hoping no new surprises popped up overnight.
Amongst trees, flowers and open fields of grass, you will typically find Landscaper John Frazier. Being with the Piedmont Park Conservancy for over 14 years, John says that he loves his job because he can work with his hands and enjoy the outdoors, all while watching the fruits of his labor grow. John is usually paired with contract worker Chris who likes “making the Park look pretty for people to enjoy.”
“The atmosphere is great,” John says. “The people I work with have great attitudes. It’s a great learning process. Making the Park better each year is great.”
Peek between buildings and spot a red golf cart to find Operations Manager Todd Williard. Todd began working at the Conservancy because of his interest in the preservation of Piedmont Park.
“I demonstrate my love for the park by showing up every day,” Todd says. “I enjoy working outside, and I love being involved in the Conservancy.”
Todd, often found wearing his cowboy hat and a button down shirt, is the go-to man for detailed projects, broken machines, and handy work that the average person looks at with a blank stare.
Wind around the corner and find Stanley Lofton, another landscaper with a friendly personality and often a wave. Stanley spends his days blowing an immense amount of leaves, mowing large acres of grass, budding flowers to promote their growth and so much more. Ask Stanley how his day is going, and you are always met with enthusiasm and passion.
“I love the Park people,” Stanley says. Working in Piedmont Park has “a sense of freedom. Piedmont Park has history, you know? I’m from Atlanta, and Piedmont Park is the crown jewel of the city. I’m part of Piedmont Park, and Piedmont Park is part of me.”
Keep walking through the Park, and find a man standing on a ladder tinkering away: Maintenance Engineer Michael Paul. Usually surrounded by an immense amount of tools and measuring tape, Michael performs multiple roles from technical projects to IT functions for the Conservancy. Michael expresses the same passion and dedication in his work as the other team members.
“I support the mission of the Conservancy,” Michael says. “It makes me proud because when people stop, ask me questions and say that they enjoy the Park, I know how much work goes into it. I get the opportunity to interact with the public which opens the door to talk about the Conservancy.”
Michael Paul testing Legacy Fountain under ground
Hop over to the Active Oval to see Landscaper Alan Wise, continuously mowing or raking the fields in systematic lines and patterns to beautifully curate the sport fields. Alan works hard to care for the fields which attract over 68,000 reserved players each year.
Alan loves Piedmont Park “because it’s the heart of the city [and] it connects people with nature.”
Some of Alan’s other duties include checking reservation permits, managing signage, and prepping bases, nets and other recreational items. When he isn’t working on the Oval, Alan aids the other team members to further beautify the Park such as mulching the Dog Parks, supporting volunteers and trash pickup.
Alan Wise raking the fields
Need to take a bathroom break? You might run into Landscaper Lorenzo Marshall. Toting buckets, cleaning supplies and a friendly spirit, Lorenzo is charged with taking care of all of the bathrooms in Piedmont Park. With an increased visitation of Piedmont Park, this job gets harder and harder every day. Yet, Lorenzo always shows up and gets the job done. After cleaning bathrooms, Lorenzo might be found clearing pathways, caring for plants and other landscape projects.
Lastly, you might see Mark Nelson driving by checking on various projects or sitting in a meeting to strategize the next move. Mark, the Director of Operations, impressively manages the team and the countless projects that pop up all over Piedmont Park. He determines which projects are delegated to the Conservancy team or the City of Atlanta. He communicates with the rest of the staff to update them on projects and field incoming questions. Mark also gets his hands dirty, using his horticultural and landscape expertise to complete specialized projects with the Park.
Standing from any Piedmont Park gate looking in, anywhere your eyes can see is likely to be impacted by the Piedmont Park Conservancy operations staff. Whether you love to visit the Dog Parks, play in the playgrounds, shop at the Green Market, attend camp, splash in the Legacy Fountain, or jog around the running track, you can see the efforts of this hardworking team. The Conservancy is lucky to have such a dedicated and self-motivated team that also hold personal passions for the work that they do. The next time you are out in the Park, give a wave hello and strike up a conversation. They’re friendly guys, and are definitely Piedmont Park Proud.