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.
For the neighborhoods and residence east of downtown Atlanta, and for my family in particular, Freedom Park is the treasured legacy of civic activism. In 1992, my wife Laura and I purchased a craftsman bungalow a few blocks from a ragged strip of land aimlessly rolling down hill toward it’s dead end at Moreland Ave. With an eye on preparing the city for the 1996 Olympics, that overgrown grassy spit of land was soon transformed into the eastern terminus of Freedom Parkway and part of the two hundred acre Freedom Park. It traces the path of one section of the defeated Stone Mountain Freeway and Presidential Parkway; from the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site, past the Carter Center, to a narrow spur of land near Jackson Hill Baptist church in Candler Park and Druid Hills.
As the years flowed by, we raised two ‘in-town’ girls and restored the bungalow. At every opportunity we strolled, jogged, walked, and explored Freedom Park. The jogging stroller turned into a tricycle, a tag-along and then bicycles. The girls learned to ride bikes, fly kites and catch raindrops on their tongue in the meadow. This unique linear park took us to school at Mary Lin and to the MLK Center on quiet curving paths. It showed us unique art installations, and connected us to six other neighborhoods. It’s hard now to imagine that the Carter Center sits at the nexus of what was to have been a monstrous cloverleaf interstate junction!
Recently, there as been a renewed interest in the incredible story of how CAUTION and citizens from these Eastside neighborhoods rallied to do what was considered impossible — stop Georgia DOT, big business and special interests from bulldozing even more homes and grabbing green space to build an interstate connector between Stone Mountain and I-75/85.
Last February a pop-up exhibit entitled “Protest, Pickets & Parkways” displayed posters, photographs and newspaper articles chronicling the road fight. This event was located at an Inman Park gallery overlooking both Freedom Park and the Beltline, providing a look at both the past and the future. Last August, a 25 year anniversary gathering was held at Dellwood Park, part of the Olmstead Linear Parks on Ponce de Leon Ave, to celebrate the legal settlement which ended the 10 year battle to “Stop The Road”.
On that sunny afternoon in Dellwood Park, I had the honor of addressing those gathered on behalf of the current Freedom Park Conservancy Board of Directors. My youngest daughter, now a senior at Agnes Scott, and Laura were volunteers that day. On behalf of the conservancy, and my family, I expressed the gratitude of all those who now live in the vibrant neighborhoods that have flourished over the intervening years. We also made a commitment to build on the gift they bequeathed to all of Atlanta.
With the metropolitan population expected to double over the next twenty years, it is clear that Freedom Park will be greatly impacted by in-town development. In 2007 the City Council passed a resolution naming Freedom Park as Atlanta’s Arts Park. To realize its full potential, Freedom Park cannot go into the next 25 years without a vision for its future. As an integral and vital component of a transforming urban area, a master plan for the park is needed, and a professionally run conservancy to oversee it.
This year, the Freedom Park Conservancy (FPC) has begun delivering on that commitment. The FPC has received two significant grants; one for design services from Perkins + Will, and a private grant to hire an executive director. Utilizing pro bono hours donated by Brodbeck Board & Brass, the FPC is finalizing a strategic plan that will create a board capable of managing a significant annual budget, embarking on a capital campaign, and creating an RFP to bring a new master plan to market.
We all envision a park that is an asset to the city, a safe and beautiful space that is an inspiration for the next generation of ‘rain catchers’. We look forward to the challenge and to working closely with the neighborhoods during the master planning process anticipated to kick off in 2018.
Now is a great time to join us – please consider donating to the FPC by clicking the yellow donate button on the left of this page.
President, Freedom Park Conservancy
Help us give the park a little love this weekend by helping out with our first annual Earth Day cleanup event! Volunteers should wear sturdy, close-toes shoes and work gloves (extra gloves will be available). Bring a water bottle, bug spray, and sunscreen. This event is free and all ages are welcome, but all children must be accompanied by an adult.
Come find us at the white tent with Freedom Park Banners – we will be located just below the Freedom Farmers Market on the eastern end of the parking area.
Want to win a gift card to @javavino? ☕️☀️ We’re having a #freedomparkpups contest from now through Sunday, April 2nd! Post a photo to Instagram of your dog walking, napping, playing frisbee, skateboarding, hanging out in a baby backpack, or whatever your dog likes to do and we’ll select a lucky winner at random. The two rules are that the photo of your dog must be in Freedom Park and you must tag us @freedompark_atl and use the hashtag #freedomparkpups to enter the contest! Contest is also limited to US residents only. We’ll be in the park this Saturday (4/1) with dog treats and water, so come say hey! And thank you to @elliewren_thebrit for being our puppy model! 🐶.