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National Recreation and Parks Association (NRPA)

Inspiring communities through park revitalization

A local park can be a focal point of the community—be it good or bad. Selena Sloan Butler Park, despite its courageous namesake, has become known for its negative elements. Named after one of the founders of the first non-segregated National Parent-Teacher Association, this east-central Atlanta park deteriorated over the years. Rundown and attracting unwanted activities, the beautiful historical location had sadly lost its positive effect within the urban community. Enter the National Recreation and Parks Association(NRPA), an organization spearheading a massive revitalization project to bring this green space back to life.

NRPA is a national non-profit group dedicated to the advancement of public parks and recreational initiatives. Through its Parks Build Community Project, the group has undertaken redevelopment projects of public parks in urban centers. After the incredibly successful rejuvenations that occurred in Marvin Gaye Park in Washington, D.C., the NRPA is turning to the Atlanta landmark for its next project. “We must now apply the experience and lessons we continue to learn from D.C. to achieve our goals and reach our own raised expectations for this newest project at Selena S. Butler Park in Atlanta,” Barbara Tulipane, CEO of NRPA, said in a statement.

Transformative power of a park

Richard J. Dolesh, Chief Public Policy Officer of the NRPA, has been with this project since inception. “At the heart of this initiative is the recognition that is not just about what happens in the boundaries of the park, it is what is happening outside the park that affects the transformation of a community,” he says. “We are very much committed to the belief that quality parks stimulate economic activity and benefit, that they improve the quality of life in communities, and that they have a transformative power to affect people’s well-being and health.”

Collaborative effort

The NRPA has been at the heart of a major collaborative effort by numerous contributors, all of which are on board to see this project come to fruition.

Congress has agreed to donate some of the materials needed, as have area businesses, and several of the NRPA’s key partners. “We put out RFPs to our suppliers and vendors,” says Dolesh, “We have a large network of recreational equipment vendors who participate in our annual congress and trade show and are very supportive of these issues.” He notes both Playcor International Industries and Superior International Industries have made substantial donations. “At this point we have been promised $300,000 in donations from our partners and local partners and we and expect to raise more.”

The park revitalization is a part of a major overall redevelopment of the Auburn Avenue district, so the project is supported by the Atlanta Housing Authority, as well as the Health Education and Communication Center of Atlanta, an organization working to build awareness to improve health literacy. In fact, the support from various municipal groups is extensive:  the City of Atlanta Department of Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs; Park Pride; Friends of Butler Park; the Atlanta Neighborhood Planning Unit; and Fourth Ward Neighbors.

“Our intent with this project is to say: this is a replicable model for other cities,” says Dolesh. “Our hope is that we can show how parks and green space can be a catalyst for economic redevelopment plans.”

Stay tuned for a larger feature on some of the other amazing initiatives of the NRPA in the upcoming issue of the American Business Journal.


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