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Center for City Park Excellence Staff

Peter Harnik is director of the Center for City Park excellence. His most recent book, Urban Green: Innovative Parks for Resurgent Cities (Island Press), was published in 2010.  Previous TPL works include Measuring the Economic Value of a City Park System (2009), The Excellent City Park System: What Makes it Great and How to Get There (2006) and Inside City Parks (Urban Land Institute, 2000).  Previous to TPL, Harnik was co-founder and vice president of the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, and also co-founded the Coalition for the Capital Crescent Trail in Washington, D.C.  He is a founder of the City Parks Alliance and serves on the board of Smart Growth America.  A native of New York City, he is a graduate of The Johns Hopkins University.

Ryan Donahue, research director, assists with a variety of projects in the Center. Currently, he is focused on researching the economics and politics of urban brownfield-to-park conversions. Previously, he has worked on  a statistical analysis of the economic value of city parks, a study of funding mechanisms for Bay Area parks, and a report on innovative uses for public golf courses.  Ryan is a 2010 graduate of the University of Puget Sound, where he studied International Political Economy and French, and wrote a senior thesis entitled Chaos and Control at the Forest Frontier: Property Rights Systems and the Integration of Conservation and Development in Madagascar and Mexico. Ryan plans to pursue further studies in Urban Planning or Landscape Architecture.

City Parks Alliance Staff

Catherine Nagel has served as Executive Director of City Parks Alliance since 2004. During this time she launched a federal advocacy campaign to increase funding for urban parks; developed community capacity building programming through workshops and webinars; organized international urban parks conferences; and facilitated the Red Fields to Green Fields project, a national effort with more than one hundred partners to convert distressed commercial real estate into productive urban green space. For five years she directed the partnership between CPA and the National Association for Olmsted Parks, where she was also Executive Director. In 2008 NAOP received the American Society of Landscape Architects Medal of Excellence. Under her direction, NAOP republished the award-winning “The Master List of Design Projects of the Olmsted Firm 1857 – 1979,” and launched A Design for Democracy campaign to restore the Olmsted-designed landscape at the U.S. Capitol. Prior to CPA, Catherine was Executive Director of the Japan America Society of Greater Philadelphia where she initiated the Subaru Cherry Blossom Festival of Greater Philadelphia and the annual Philadelphia-Japan Health Sciences Dialogue. Catherine has a master’s degree in Landscape Architecture from the University of Pennsylvania School of Design and a bachelor’s degree in Japanese Studies from Bucknell University.

Angelina Horn, Outreach & Program Manager, is responsible for CPA’s programming, outreach, and social media. She also provides research and administrative support for the organization’s advocacy and membership initiatives. Before joining CPA in 2008, Angelina was in the development department at the Children’s Defense Fund, and spent several years working as a program assistant for the Nevada Arts Council. She is a southern California native, a desert hiking enthusiast, and holds a bachelor’s degree in Anthropology & Ethnic Studies from University of Nevada-Las Vegas.


John Crotty is a former research associate for The Trust for Public Land in the Conservation Vision and Conservation Finance programs.

Coleen Gentles, former director of marketing with the Center for City Park Excellence, was responsible for website content, and served as editor-in-chief of the City Parks Blog. She conducted research on park issues, responded to requests from local officials, organized colloquia hosted by the center and contributed to reports on Birmingham, Ala., Hampton, Va. and New Brunswick, N.J. Prior to TPL, she interned with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Geological Survey and volunteered with the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission. She has a biology degree from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County.

Elissa Hoagland Izmailyan is a park enthusiast with an economic perspective. She worked as an intern with the Center for City Park Excellence in 2010, where she provided research support for CCPE’s public policy analysis, economic valuation studies, and City Park Survey. Following her internship, she continued to partner with CCPE on economic valuation studies and conducted historic research on the Jewish community’s ties to Boston’s Franklin Park. She remains involved in the economics of public spaces as an analyst at HR&A Advisors, a real estate, public policy, and economic development consulting firm headquartered in New York City. While at HR&A, Elissa has supported public and private park advocates across the country, working to provide an economic rationale for park investment and develop innovative strategies for funding and governance. Elissa holds a B.A. in Economics from Brown University.

Aric Merolli, volunteer with the Center for City Park Excellence, contributes to research into urban park issues and new trends in city park developments. Previous writing includes covering reservoirs to create new parkland (Urban Land, October 2009) and ways to use cemeteries as park space (Landscape Architecture, December 2010 and American Cemetery, January 2011). Currently he is researching how Business Improvement Districts can work to improve and develop parkland in their communities. Aric is a registered Landscape Architect and holds a master’s degree in Regional Planning from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst and a bachelor’s degree in Landscape Architecture from the University of California, Davis. His professional work includes designing parks and streetscapes for growing communities in California and the DC metro area.

Jordan Thaler, former program associate with the Center for City Park Excellence, managed the city parks database and was responsible for the annual City Park Facts report. He also conducted research about a wide variety of urban green space issues across the country. A 2010 graduate of Vassar College, Jordan’s academic career focused on urban sustainability, culminating in his senior thesis, Central Park to the High Line: A Reconceptualization of Nature in the City. Jordan hopes to pursue a Master of Landscape Architecture in the future.

Editor Emeritus

Ben Welle is the assistant project manager for EMBARQ, the World Resources Institute Center for Sustainable Transport’s health and road safety program, which works to reduce fatalities and increase quality of life through sustainable urban development and transport. Prior to working at EMBARQ, he was assistant director at The Trust for Public Land’s Center for City Park Excellence in Washington, D.C., writing, consulting, and speaking on urban park systems and public space and their relationship to urban development. He has also worked in the Twin Cities of Minnesota at the Community Reinvestment Fund and at the Minnesota Attorney General’s Office. He has a master’s degree in urban and regional planning from the Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota and a bachelor’s degree in communications from Hamline University.

2 Responses

  1. I am interested in contacting Ryan regarding the adaptive re-use of a public golf course, my UCLA Landscape Architecture thesis (2011-12). Can you please advise? It appears he may be a great resource for this abstract.
    Alison Emilio

  2. We are campaigning to have two streets in our neighbourhood closed off to create two cul de sacs and a small neighbourhood park.
    We call ourselves ‘Supporters FOR the Park’ and feel it would make a huge difference to our area. I am particularly interested in how it will effect families and children. Do any of you have any helpful material on parks and children? The advantages feel as plain as the nose on your face, but any studies, websites or pedagogy that might back them up would be much appreciated.

    Elizabeth Honey

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