Recap: Citywide Conversation on Environmental Justice

How do you clean up and recover approximately 1,100 acres of contaminated industrial properties? How do you revitalize disadvantaged communities that were typically hit hardest by industrial growth? The Atlanta BeltLine has an incredible history as a network of railroad lines that circled our city, but those railroad lines were built without environmental regulation or supervision until 1970. Our project of transit, trails, and parks will restore these mostly abandoned railroads and properties into where people can live, work and play. But we can’t leave that legacy without your help.

The goal of the Environmental Justice Policy is to avoid, minimize or mitigate disproportionately high and adverse human health and environmental effects in challenged communities.  In conjunction with the creation of the trails, transit, parks, affordable housing and more, this policy will outline key tools to transform areas of disinvestment and environmental degradation into green, revitalized and vibrant communities once again.

On Saturday, March 10th, Atlanta BeltLine, Inc. kicked off the first of many workshops to promote education and feedback surrounding our draft Environmental Justice Policy. After an informational introduction to explain what environmental justice is and why it is important, attendees participated in a four-part interactive forum. The exercise began with a map where everyone came up and pointed out where in Atlanta they live. From there, the group had a lively discussion on the following four topics and their opinion on how each one impacts their lives individually:

  1. Knowing your community
  2. Disproportionate impact
  3. Community involvement
  4. Benefits and burdens of the Atlanta BeltLine
People talked about everything from vacant lots to liquor stores in the neighborhoods, how they impact development, and what the community can do to bring about positive change. When it came to the Atlanta BeltLine, the response was overwhelmingly supportive of the healthier communities, congestion relief, higher quality of life, economic development, and revitalization of blight that the project should help realize. Issues of public safety and gentrification were discussed as well.
Atlanta BeltLine's Environmental Justice stakeholder meeting
Stakeholders held a meeting to discuss environmental justice in the Invest Atlanta offices.

Where can you see Environmental Justice in action? To date, with the help of our partners, we’re remediated industrial land at Historic Fourth Ward Park, D.H. Stanton Park and Boulevard Crossing. Presently, restoration is underway with the construction of the Eastside Trail.

After our Community Engagement Team gets feedback from a myriad of groups, we will share the revised policy at another public, citywide meeting in spring 2012.

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