Getting to know our new ED: A Q&A with Laura Hennighausen

The Board of the Freedom Park Conservancy is still VERY EXCITED for you to get to know our new Executive Director, Laura Hennighausen. Our Communications Chair, Sara Clark, sat down with Laura to learn a little more about her experience, and what she sees in the future for Freedom Park. Laura has officially started in her role as of 5/21, and you can reach her at Laura@freedompark.org.
 
As FPC’s first ever Executive Director, you have a lot of new challenges ahead of you. What are you most looking forward to tackling? 
 
I am very excited to work with the FPC Board and the surrounding communities to realize their vision for the future of the park through a master plan. There are so many opportunities for the park, whether that may be enhanced landscaping or the addition of more public sculpture. The possibilities are endless!
 
The FPC’s Board of Directors recently adopted a new strategic plan, which prioritizes fundraising and implementation for a new park master plan. What is a park master plan, and have you worked on any in the past? 
 
A master plan is really just that – it’s an overarching document that charts the future of a public park. FPC in its current state has never undergone a comprehensive master planning process, so this is a huge opportunity for locals to think about their relationship to the park. FPC will be here to work with the City Parks department to preserve what people currently most love about the space, and create an executable strategy to further enhance the park in sustainable and thoughtful ways.
 
You’ve previously worked with other greenspaces, such as the Historic Oakland Foundation (Oakland Cemetery) and the Atlanta Botanical Garden. What do you love about working with parks? What do you think makes Freedom Park unique? 
 
Although this may be a surprise to some since I am admittedly not an avid camper or hiker, I do love being outside. At the same time, I love being in a city! Greenspaces such as Oakland Cemetery and Freedom Park offer such a needed amenity – there is nothing more restorative than sitting quietly, listening to the birds and the trees. Atlanta is blessed to have a canopy of green interspersed with preserved greenspaces like Freedom Park. The conservancies across the city share an important role in preserving this space for all Atlantans. Freedom Park is particularly unique in its legacy as a grassroots effort to maintain the integrity of intown Atlanta, while providing a really exciting opportunity to present works of art in an incredibly accessible manner. Passive parks are so important in providing a site of respite in the midst of such a growing city.
 
Freedom Park was created through the efforts of local activists, who opposed a highway cutting through the historic east Atlanta neighborhoods. How do you intend to work with these neighborhood groups as FPC’s Executive Director? 
 
Freedom Park is the local park for several neighborhoods in Atlanta which provides FPC with a natural constituency. I hope through each of the neighborhood associations and other affinity groups to learn more about how each distinct area interacts with the park. The most important thing during the master planning process will be to ensure the community has ample opportunity to think about their relationship with the space and what they most value. That’s the only way to ensure the master plan accurately reflects what the larger community sees for Freedom Park’s future.
 
And finally, what is your favorite thing about Freedom Park? 
 
I really love the story of how Freedom Park came to be: community residents exercising their rights. So many people have poured their energy into protecting the surrounding neighborhoods. What a beautiful legacy to carry!