Freedom Park Conservancy has a Park Improvement Committee charged with tracking physical issues and opportunities within Freedom Park. The Committee and Executive Director regularly walk the Park to keep track of the Park’s status. Issues noted include incidents of graffiti, erosion, invasive plants, tree canopy issues, and more.
If you have noticed an issue in the park, please feel free to reach out to the Conservancy to make sure it is on our radar. Email Laura@FreedomPark.org or call the Conservancy at 404-480-3018 to bring it to our attention and we will do what we can to make sure it is addressed!
Like many of us who live and work in East Atlanta, I spend my work days looking at a computer screen. It’s either a desktop flat panel HD monitor, a smartphone, or tablet. Typing and reading emails, creating spreadsheets, analyzing data for cost benefit analysis or project implementation…I know, yawn—stretch—ugh is it only 3:30?
One of my favorite ways to unwind at the end of a day is to go out for a bike ride in Freedom Park. Now—I love road biking, and modern, high-end bike technology. A carbon fiber frame road bike with electronic shifters, an 11 gear rear cluster and 23cm wheels is the cat’s meow—but that’s not for Freedom Park. No, in fact I roll my eyes when I see road bikes on Freedom Park, at least as much as they will roll inside a rectangle.
No, for Freedom Park you just need an old, slow, heavy bike. One cobbled together from broken bikes eagerly given to you by friends, or a hand me down clunker is just fine. Thanks to the foresight of the early CAUTION members and the first plans drawn up by EDAW with the input of the neighborhoods, Freedom Park trails are not designed to get you from Point A to Point B. The paths in Freedom Park are designed to slow you down so that you will enjoy the space in between those points. Miles Davis once famously said of Jazz that the most important part of his music was the space in between the notes. Freedom Park is the space in between seven neighborhoods. To ride in Freedom Park, you need to take your time. Heck, get off the bike and walk.
Sometime in this past September, toward the middle of the month, it was a particularly pretty day outside. Clouds like shipwrecks were scuttling across a snappy blue sky. Far off in the Atlantic a low pressure center was pulling in cool, clear air from the north toward its slow vortex. Here in Atlanta, we sat on the perimeter watching it all go by. I got on my city bike, a 20 year old mountain bike that I’d striped down of shocks and other non-essential hardware to become a spunky curb jumping red ATV. It weighs a ton, but has lots of granny gears and is bullet proof, perfect for riding in the city.
It was late in the day and the sun cast long rolling shadows across the grand meadow. A lone sunbather was stretched out in the acres of late summer grass. Beyond the single figure, trees bordering Druid Place drew a dark line of natural patterns that separated the earth from sky. Some of the trees were older, well established oak trees that once stood in the yards of homes; now the trees and lone steps leading from the sidewalk are all that remain.
I stopped at the Domenge sculpture, Tree of Life, located just east of Oakdale Road at North Ave, which had been recently refurbished. It’s vibrant red color and cursive, calligraphic shape were catching the afternoon’s last light. I was feeling better already, my eyes slowly returning to their natural shape. My next stop was near Euclid Avenue,at the Diane Solomon Kempler multi-part bronze, water and stone sculpture entitled New Endings. Now the afternoon light was cutting in steeply as it set. The water feature was on and the fairytale Jack and the Bean Stalk feel of the bronze was even more dramatic – it looked like a water fountain from some larger than life creature that was going to come harvest the bronze tubers.
Nearby a large lush stand of flowering Canna Lilies added to the imagery of harvest, their leaves well munched on by voracious caterpillars. I spent time at each sculpture, taking pictures with my smartphone and wishing I’d brought a real camera, before riding down to the eastern terminus of Freedom Park at the slowly crumbling Jackson Heights Baptist church. The path below Candler Park golf course is one of my favorite spots. The stone work on the bridge is nice for portrait photography and the stream, rejuvenated thanks to efforts by neighborhood organizations, is now home again to beavers that migrated upstream from the Chattahoochee.
On this day, I don’t bother to ride the full eight miles of trails in Freedom Park. I take my time riding back toward home, enjoying the play of light in the trees, stopping to snap pictures, dawdling in a way that only the green and light of outdoors can help you do. No need to repeat a mantra, each step or pedal stroke is another breath, troubling thoughts come and are released. This is the way to ride a bike.
Steve Cushing is a photographer, sculptor, and former Board Chair of Freedom Park Conservancy. He, and his wife “Miss Laura” have lived on Seminole Ave and enjoyed Freedom Park for 27 years.
The artwork in Freedom Park is owned and maintained by the Mayor’s Office of Cultural Affairs.
Hello! As the Communications Committee Chair for the Board of Directors, I want to welcome you to our new monthly column, Across The Board. Each month, you’ll hear from one (or two!) of our Directors on a range of park-adjacent topics. Expect fond memories, insider tips, information about upcoming events, and more! We hope you’ll enjoy getting to know a little more about the folks who volunteer their time to help Freedom Park be all it can be.
First up: me! My name is Sara Clark, and I’ve been on the board of the conservancy for about two and a half years. I’m one of the seemingly few people who was born and raised in the Atlanta area, and I’ve lived in Candler Park for the last five years. If you had told 19-year-old Sara that one day she would live a stone’s throw from Little Five Points, she would have been very excited…
In our inaugural column, I wanted to talk more about the new branding we introduced last month. About a year ago, you may have noticed a new tagline coming from FPC – “Freedom is your Park.” We had a few t-shirts, magnets, and stickers made, and started posting #freedomisyourpark on our social media posts. It didn’t look like any of the branding we had before, but more importantly it was a new message. Freedom is YOUR Park. While we, Freedom Park Conservancy, are tasked with being the guardians of Freedom Park, the park itself truly belongs to all of us – each and every neighbor, visitor, and ATLien who enjoys the amenities of our beloved park.
While we love this message, we felt like it wasn’t quite enough to truly reflect the energy and the vision of FPC today and in the future. As an organization, we are looking at the work we’re doing now as setting the stage for the next 25 years for Freedom Park – this includes hiring our first Executive Director, Laura Hennighausen, and also starting a major Master Plan fundraising campaign. We felt that this new energy and new vision required a new look to present to the community.
First of all, none of this would be possible without a generous grant from Perkins + Will, who employ a phenomenal branding team. Thank you Perkins + Will, and especially Meredith, who knocked it out of the park (pun intended). What we felt was so perfect about the branding they created was that it tells our story for us:
We love the intersecting lines that match the shape of the park, and form an “F.” The color sections show all of the overlapping communities, population groups, and interests that all come together within our park. We feel that we are a connection point for so much of Atlanta, and now our look truly reflects that. I hope you love it as much as we do, and will enjoy it for years to come.
Freedom Park is built on the ruins of family homes. In the 1960s and early 70s, more than 600 houses were demolished in order to build a major tollway that would have cut through historic neighborhoods such as Old Fourth Ward, Poncey-Highland, Candler Park, Inman Park, Lake Claire, and Druid Hills. Thankfully, engaged citizens banded together to Fight the Road and instead of a raised, four-lane highway Atlanta now benefits from Freedom Park, a 200+ acre public green space.
Environmental design firm EDAW was tasked with developing a plan for Freedom Park in the early 1990s. It was an ambitious undertaking and while much was accomplished, there were many opportunities that were never fully realized.
It’s been more than 20 years since Freedom Park’s original master plan. Much has changed in these years and it is clear that there must be a new, updated plan to better prepare for the next 20+ years. To ensure Freedom Park continues to reflect the vision of its founders while remaining relevant and inviting to thousands of visitors and new Atlantans, we must take the time to envision together what Freedom Park can become.
We hope that with a careful and professional process, the Conservancy can determine how the Park can best serve the community. From large issues such as drainage and erosion, to the best places to site a new park bench, the plan will be a guiding document for the park forged through careful analysis and public engagement.
In order to move forward, Freedom Park Conservancy is launching a campaign to raise the necessary funds to engage a skilled outside firm to lead this project. Remember, Freedom is YOUR Park, and we are counting on you to help shape its future.
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!
Laura Hennighausen selected to manage organization effective May 21, 2018
Atlanta, GA, May 10, 2018 – The Board of Directors of Freedom Park Conservancy is pleased to announce the appointment of Laura Hennighausen as the organization’s first Executive Director. Hennighausen comes with a wealth of experience in non-profit fundraising and development, and will be responsible for shepherding the organization through the creation of an ambitious 25-year master plan.
“This is indeed an exciting time for Freedom Park Conservancy and for the future of Freedom Park,” said Steven Cushing, President of the Board of Directors. “Laura’s extensive development experience in the parks-sector is a perfect match for our needs at this critical juncture. We couldn’t be happier for the future of Freedom Park and its mission to improve and protect the park for the diverse public which it serves.”
As Freedom Park Conservancy’s first Executive Director, Hennighausen will oversee fundraising for a new master plan, as well as implementation of the organization’s recently-approved strategic plan initiatives. Other responsibilities will include developing public art programing for the park, and managing relationships with park-adjacent neighborhood organizations and other external stakeholders.
As Director of Development for Historic Oakland Foundation, Hennighausen helped the organization successfully fund the creation of a master plan, as well as develop alternative funding streams through membership and corporate sponsorship. She has a Master’s Degree in Arts Administration from the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD), and Bachelor’s Degrees in Art History and Japanese Language and Literature from the University of Georgia.
“I am incredibly honored to be selected as FPC’s first staff member,” said Hennighausen. “Coming from Oakland Cemetery, Atlanta’s oldest public green space, I appreciate the rich history of Freedom Park and the work of the hundreds of Atlantans that came before me to steward the site. This is an incredible opportunity to help Atlanta envision the future of one of the city’s largest public assets. I can’t wait to get started!”
About the organization Freedom Park Conservancy is a 501(c)3 non-profit which promotes the improvement and preservation of Freedom Park for the benefit of a diverse public. Freedom Park was designated as Atlanta’s Public Art Park by the Atlanta City Council in 2007. At 200 acres, Freedom Park is one of the largest parks in Atlanta.
Contact: Sara Clark, Communication Chair for the Freedom Park Conservancy Board of Directors email@example.com 404-578-1765
The Freedom Park Conservancy is looking to hire our very first Executive Director. This is a very exciting time to be involved with FPC, and we can’t wait see what we can achieve with a new leader at the helm.