Atlanta’s South River Forest: A Consideration of Affordable Housing

April 7, 2022 - 11:30am

Dr. Cassandra Johnson Gaither, USDA Forest Service

Research Social Scientist

Cassandra Johnson Gaither is a Research Social Scientist with the Southern Research Station, USDA Forest Service, in Athens, GA (cassandra.johnson@usda.gov).  Her research interests address human perceptions and interactions with nature and the environment.  She has published research addressing social group visitation to wild land recreation areas, environmental justice as this relates to minority and lower wealth group access to outdoor recreation facilities, and more recently, the intersection of socially vulnerable populations and environmental risk.  Her work currently focuses on the intersection of property ownership and social vulnerability in the South and the implications of the same for national forest management.

The Nature Conservancy is leading an effort to establish the South River Forest Park to preserve and restore 3,500 acres of forest cover and green space in south metro Atlanta. At the same time, there is an acute shortage of affordable housing in this part of Atlanta, which is predominantly lower income and African American. This exploratory discussion addresses land use and demographic changes in the south river “vision area” since 1960, factors contributing to the South River Forest concept, and considerations of how best to integrate affordable housing into this preservation and restoration.