By John Ruch

A city of Atlanta restriction on putting donors’ names in parks is crippling fundraising for PATH400’s $9 million capital campaign, according to Livable Buckhead Executive Director Denise Starling.

Buckhead Community Improvement District board member Robin Loudermilk raised the issue at the March 2 CID meeting, where he asked Starling whether naming rights are available for a new park area along the multi-use trail and indicated he’d like to make a significant donation.

Starling replied that any such donor recognition is a “hot-button issue with the city” and the current answer is no, though she has been trying to work out an agreement quietly.

“The city has a lot of concerns about commercializing the parks…It’s a very politically hot potato,” Starling told the CID board. “It’s crippling us,” she said, because donor recognition plaques are a major fundraising tool for the money needed to build out the path and related park system.

Starling said in a later interview that the city’s donor recognition policy appears to be informal, and there are contrary examples, such as the donor-naming bricks on display in Buckhead’s Loudermilk Park.

“There’s not a set policy on how to do it…but they’re taking a real hard line on it right now,” Starling said. “I’ve never seen it [put in writing].”

“We do not support the commercialization of our assets,” said city spokeswoman Jewanna Gaither, adding that the city’s Department of Parks and Recreation “does recognize the value of public/private partnerships and has presented a variety of appropriate solutions to Livable Buckhead which promote such interests.”

“I’ve been fighting this battle because we’re leaving millions on the table—millions,” City Councilman and CID board member Howard Shook said at the March 2 meeting. “I see names on a lot of [other] things…Are we safe if we find dead people [to honor on sponsorship plaques]?”

Read the rest of this story at Reporter Newspapers.

Collin Kelley has been the editor of Atlanta Intown for two decades and has been a journalist and freelance writer for 35 years. He’s also an award-winning poet and novelist.