Posted By Maria Pugliesi, ATLANTA GA – Just last week Atlanta's park system was ranked 31st out of 50 of those in the country’s largest cities. That’s not exactly a stellar performance and it’s not surprising seeing as only 5.6 percent of the city’s land houses parks. But there is something else not captured it this news item that city officials should be doing something about: the distribution of parks and green space is unequal: with the most wealthy, more white parts of the city having more parks and the less wealthy, more Black parts of the city having more parking lots.
People living in Midtown and points farther north can easily walk to nearby green spaces. Piedmont Park, for example, is one of the biggest parks in Atlanta, and crowds of people from all walks of life fill its immense grass fields on sunny Sunday afternoons. When it’s time to go home, people can cross the street and walk back under the shade of beautiful large trees. There are also jogging and bicycle paths surrounded by large lawns to connect residential neighborhoods like those in Freedom Park.
Closer to downtown, the southside of Atlanta presents a starkly different scenario. Mostly, African American working class people live immediately South of Georgia State University, and they do not have ready access to equally prosperous vegetation, a large park or jogging and biking trails. There are small parks near public elementary schools; however they are certainly not of a comparable magnitude to those to the north.
By simply looking at a map of the city, it would make sense to assume that perhaps there is not enough space to create green recreational area near downtown. But then again, one has to wonder why there are so many empty parking lots. In Midtown you can easily happen upon a beautiful park but it’s hard to find parking. On the southside you can easily happen upon a parking lot but it’s hard to find a park. I’d prefer a park to a parking lot.
Maria Pugliesi is an economics major at Georgia State University.