DeKalb County, GA, Approves Open Space Funds

Decatur, GA – Residents of metro Atlanta’s DeKalb County approved a bond referendum on March 20 that will generate $125 million to acquire land to preserve as greenspace, fix up deteriorating parks and buy land to create more ball fields. Voting yes by a margin of 58 to 41 percent, DeKalb residents sent a signal that they support newly-elected CEO Vernon Jones in his bid to ensure that every child will grow up within a ten-minute walk of park, trail or natural area.

“I’m very proud that people stepped up and did the right thing for our kids,” says Jones, the county’s first African-American CEO and a man who took office only three months ago. “Every acre of our county is under threat of development, and this bond referendum will go along way toward saving our trees, giving young people more places to play, and improving the quality of life for all our residents.”

Jones decided to launch his greenspace and parks initiative as part of a special election. The quick thinking, however, left the campaign committee that formed to support the measure with just two months to promote it. The “Citizens for DeKalb Greenspace” responded to the challenge thanks in part to former Georgia Lieutenant Governor and Trust for Public Land board member Pierre Howard agreeing to serve as honorary chairman and a spokesman. A wide range of county residents and environmental organizations – including the Trust for Public Land, The Nature Conservancy, The Conservation Fund, and League of Conservation Voters — made significant contributions of money and labor. In addition, the Trust for Public Land took a lead role in fundraising, polling, message crafting, and media relations.

“The community came together to support Vernon Jones on this issue,” says Rand Wentworth, Georgia state director for TPL. “It took a lot of courage for a new CEO to propose such a grand vision for his county, and his leadership has resulted in $125 million that will be used to protect DeKalb’s natural resources and special places.”

Seventy percent of the bond funding will be used to buy and protect land, while 30 percent will be spent on renovating existing parks and buying land to build more ball fields and other recreational facilities.

“Our county was growing so fast that we weren’t keeping up with the demands placed on our parks and open spaces,” Jones says. “This bond referendum gives us the tool we need to remedy that … to give our county the kinds of natural areas and ball parks that make DeKalb a wonderful place to live in.”