Freedom Park was the largest public green space set aside in a major metropolitan area in the United States in the 20th century. It’s history stretches from the Civil War (where Sherman watched Atlanta burn) to Civil Rights (it borders the birthplace of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.) to present-day activism (the neighborhood group CAUTION stopped a major Dept. of Transportation project in the early 1990s).
It was born of an extraordinary 20-year battle by nine Atlanta neighborhoods to prevent the construction of several proposed major highways systems that would have bisected historic neighborhoods and destroyed a string of parks designed by Frederick Law Olmsted. More than 500 homes were demolished by the Georgia Department of Transportation in the 1960’s for these highway projects. In the ensuing years, as the 217 acres of land lay vacant and undeveloped, the neighborhoods most affected by each proposed highway project remained committed to preservation and the creation of intown parks.
CAUTION, Inc. was formed in 1982 to fight the highway proposed by the Georgia DOT: A project supported by former US President Jimmy Carter, Atlanta Mayor Andy Young, a majority of the Atlanta City Council and DeKalb County CEO Manuel Maloof. In the face of such formidable opposition, the neighborhoods sustained years of legal action in courts all the way to the Georgia Supreme Court. Protests, civil disobedience and efforts led to elect over 68 No Road friendly politicians. With support from Congressman John Lewis and newly elected Mayor Maynard Jackson, CAUTION’s efforts to stop the road finally brought success with the defeat of the plan for a four-lane expressway with bridges, truck traffic, high speeds and limited access with exit ramps. The City of Atlanta, Georgia DOT and CAUTION mediated a resolution in 1991 that resulted in the design and construction of Freedom Park and Freedom Parkway. Click here to see the video Inman Park and the Road Fight by Terminus Films.
The main thoroughfares through the park, Freedom Parkway and Moreland Avenue, provide the park with a daily audience of 43,500 people who traverse the park. Almost six miles long, and containing 210 acres of open rolling terrain, the park’s bucolic landscape in an urban setting provides plenty of room to accommodate runners, strollers, bicyclists and families escaping to this outdoor sanctuary as well as a venue for public art in Atlanta.
Freedom Park is located northeast of downtown Atlanta along Freedom Parkway. It stretches from Boulevard to Ponce de Leon Avenue on the north and Candler Park Drive on the east. The National Park Service’s King Historic District borders the park on the south and the Presidential Library and Carter Center are centrally located in the park. Six miles of PATH Foundation bike and walking trails start in downtown then traverse through the park, meandering through Atlanta’s oldest in-town neighborhoods.