Socioecological Production of Parks in Atlanta, Georgia's Proctor Creek Watershed: Creating Ecosystem Services or Negative Externalities?


For decades, grassroots activists have engaged in efforts to resurrect the integrity of Atlanta, Georgia’s Proctor Creek Watershed, by creating a narrative about the value of the ecological and sociohistorical worth of the watershed. These efforts have resulted in both small- and large-scale adaptive reuse green space projects in Proctor Creek, intended to mitigate flooding and to provide recreational opportunities for socially disadvantaged residents. This kind of place making is consistent with Henrik Ernstson’s ecological services model that theorizes that environmental justice is produced when actors coalesce to create and articulate the ecological and social value of urban spaces. However, Ernstson’s model does not account for the possibility of negative externalities, that is, gentrification/displacement of residents resulting from the value articulation process. In the case of Proctor Creek, displacement may occur for two reasons—one, the relative lack of property ownership and two, because of the lack of clarity of real property ownership. At least two-thirds of residents in most of Proctor Creek’s neighborhoods are renters, and it is likely that a high percentage of resident owners hold titles classed as ‘‘heirs’ property.’’ This article discusses unintended consequences resulting from participatory justice and place-making activities and the need to widen the scope of value articulation to include displacement cautions.

  • Citation: Johnson Gaither, Cassandra. 2019. Socioecological Production of Parks in Atlanta, Georgia's Proctor Creek Watershed: Creating Ecosystem Services or Negative Externalities?. Environmental Justice. 12(6): 231-241.
  • Keywords: gentrification, ecosystem services, environmental justice, urban parks
  • Posted Date: September 17, 2020
  • Modified Date: September 29, 2020
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