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Atlanta Canopy Conference

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Atlanta Canopy Conference

Greg Levine, Co- Executive Director & Chief Program Officer, Trees Atlanta

Greg Levine, Co- Executive Director & Chief Program Officer, Trees Atlanta

I grew up in a two parent, two teacher household.  My mother taught art, while my father taught social studies and math. Oddly enough, I don’t remember them badgering us to do our homework, but my father did regularly quiz his four children on our multiplication tables.  My mother was more about experiential learning, recruiting me to do work in the yard or help  staple yellow and white polka-dotted fabric to the dining room wall.  My parents’ home education “program” was more about every day experience, similar to how many of us learn at work.

In college I got a chance to learn more about what I was interested in, which was Landscape Architecture – a great degree that combines nature, the built environment, creativity and a bit of math.

Today I get to work and learn about the environment in the most important city of the South, Atlanta, also known as the “City in the Forest.”  Over the last few years, Atlanta has gained a growing reputation as green and sustainable.  This reputation, along with an improving quality of life for its residents, is attracting some of the country’s best and brightest.   

The Atlanta BeltLine Arboretum adds to our green reputation and further enriches this urban infrastructure project that is transforming the region.  Trees are the core of the arboretum, as well as the heart and lungs of Atlanta.   The Arboretum demonstrates innovative construction projects and plantings as solutions to environmental issues and when finished, Atlanta will have a 22 mile forested classroom.  

Trees Atlanta uses public arboreta to help protect, grow and improve the canopy in our city, but most importantly to help educate all who travel through them about the importance of protecting our forest. Atlanta’s forest is commonly referred to as part of our city’s identity, so the creation of a “Canopy Conference” seems not only the natural thing to do, but the right thing for Trees Atlanta to do for the city.  It gives our forest the respect and the attention that it deserves. Trees Atlanta is having its first Canopy Conference on September 23rd, and it will highlight arboreta, which are botanical gardens that focus on trees and other woody plants used for demonstration, education and display.

Atlanta Canopy Conference

Atlanta Canopy Conference

The conference will have a myriad of speakers, including, landscape architects, tree growers, non-profit leaders and horticulturists, and is for citizens and professionals alike -especially for those with an interest in how local arboreta can be used to protect and grow the canopy.  Attendees will learn how our city is planning to grow while still being green as Planning Commissioner Tim Keane discusses how Atlanta’s Ecological Framework Study will be used in the larger City Design Project.    The Beltline Arboretum, the importance of healthy soil and tree diversity will also be topics of the conference.

The keynote speaker and a past professor of mine, Darrel Morrison, is a pioneer in the use of native plants and natural processes in the design of landscapes.  His designs create landscapes that are both ecologically sound and experientially rich.  Darrel has taught Landscape Architecture at the University of Wisconsin, University of Georgia and Columbia University, where he has influenced countless budding Landscape Architects to focus on designing with native plants in the most urban landscapes.

He was the senior landscape designer of the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in Austin, Texas, in the early 1990’s, and subsequently has done design work at a number of arboreta and botanic gardens, including the University of Wisconsin Arboretum, Chicago Botanic Garden, New York Botanical Garden and Brooklyn Botanic Garden, all of which feature gardens based on native plant communities in their respective regions.

Most recently, he designed the Stella Niagara Preserve on the Niagara River, just downstream from Niagara Falls, for the Western New York Land Conservancy.

His extensive knowledge, love and understanding of the unique landscapes of the United States has inspired students to include nature in design for over thirty years.  Conference participants will have the opportunity to learn how to design their own landscapes to reflect the beauty of the nature around them, whether it be in their own yards or large scale urban projects. Their growing knowledge can support larger efforts in the community in using natural landscape solutions for urban challenges.  

The conference will also include a panel of landscape architects discussing how the Atlanta BeltLine Arboretum’s historic start began over ten years ago with the arboretum concept plan for the 22 miles of Beltline, its current realization and the upcoming plans to create the south side of the arboretum, connecting the east and west sides. Even more sessions will further enlighten you on how Atlanta’s arboreta are protecting our forest and how you can help.

I think that this conference will be a great opportunity to build on the foundation set by parents, professors, peers and personal experiences.  I hope to see you there!


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