…but nobody’s listening. What I’m referring to could be the presidential debate, or the gay rights debate, or gun control, but it’s not. I’m talking about our beloved green spaces (and associated politics) here in Atlanta. There’s a lot of hullabaloo surrounding the 40% budget cuts at Fernbank Science Center and the simultaneous ending of a 48 year lease on Fernbank Forest; there’s also talk and concern about dwindling budgets for Atlanta (and DeKalb) city parks, the TSPLOST penny transportation tax, and finally the ongoing project of the Atlanta Beltline. With each of these issues, everyone seems to have a very loud opinion. Well here’s mine- LET’S START LISTENING!
Let’s also start working together towards good solutions, strategies and plans.
Let me focus one of my own personal sanctuaries- the green space known as Fernbank Forest. Fernbank is a treasure. Thanks to the vision of Emily Harrison, Emory University professor W.E.Baker, and many other early 20th century visionaries, this tract of partial old growth forest was protected. For decades, Atlantans would use this as a country picnic retreat or a place for scouts to learn outdoor skills. Many groups practiced birding or honed their botanizing skills. In 1967 a fence was erected. For the next nearly half century, thousands and thousands of DeKalb County students walked through the gated entrance to the forest to take tours and learn more about nature. Many other visitors came as well, including neighbors, visiting tourists, museum-instructor led seasonal tour groups, and volunteers groups to name a few.
Now that gate is (temporarily) closed…. and that’s okay! Fernbank, Inc. is the private, non-profit organization that owns and will (now) manage the forest. They have publicly said they are in a planning phase to develop plans for management and stewardship of the forest. This is a very good thing. Do I wish the forest gates were still open so I could go commune with my favorite tuliptrees and towering white oaks?… YES, of course. But I know that in time the forest will again be accessible to visitors. In fact, that time has come even sooner than expected with forest walks planned for August and September of this year!
Back to my original thought about no one listening… Atlanta is unique in that much of our green space is not necessarily city park land. There are numerous land holders like Emory University, the Frazer Center, Parkwood Garden Club and Fernbank, Inc. to name a few. As Atlanta plans for the future of these green spaces we need to start listening to each other and talking with, rather than about each other. We have the talent, experience, and knowledge amongst us. Now it is up to us to focus on our common goals and start a true conversation on how to best steward our green spaces for all future generations!