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Lots of Parkland, Please – And Make it Nearby, Too!

New Report Ranks the Biggest Cities

Large amounts of parkland in cities is important, but equally vital is to have parks which are nearby and easily accessible to residents, according to the latest report by The Trust for Public Land (TPL).

In seven of the nation’s largest cities — New York, Chicago, Boston, San Francisco, Philadelphia, Seattle, and Washington, D.C. — nine out of 10 residents live within a one-half mile walk to a park, according to the report.

The annual City Parks Facts report, now available at http://cloud.tpl.org/pubs/ccpe-cityparkfacts-2012.pdf  is the nation’s most complete compilation of data about urban parks.  It is collected annually by TPL’s Center for City Park Excellence.

“It is not enough for a city to have a lot of park land if it can’t be easily reached,” said Peter Harnik, CCPE Director.  “These seven cities are among the best because they have parks which almost everyone can access.”

The absolute amount of urban parkland is also significant, and among the cities with the largest park acreage are Jacksonville, Houston, Phoenix, San Diego and Los Angeles. (First place goes to Anchorage, which contains gigantic Chugach State Park within its municipal border.)

But some cities, even those with a lot of parkland, are not laid out so that the land is well-located for residents’ easy access. These places include Charlotte, Jacksonville, Louisville, and Indianapolis.

“With electronic communications making work and workers increasingly mobile, choosing where to live may be based on quality of life factors, such as parks,” said Adrian Benepe, senior vice president and director of city park development for The Trust for Public Land.   “Parks and playgrounds and recreation facilities are linchpins of quality of life in most cities.”

In addition, City Park Facts 2012 tracks numerous comparative statistics, such as:

  • Spending on parks:  leaders include Washington, D.C., San Francisco, Seattle, Cincinnati and Minneapolis
  • Acres of parkland per capita:  leaders in the different population density groups are Anchorage, Fremont, Calif., San Jose, and Oakland.
  • Number of ball diamonds per capita:  leaders are St. Paul, Minn. (5.4 for every 10,000 residents), Minneapolis (5.1), Scottsdale, Ariz. (4.2), and Pittsburgh (4.2).
  • Number of off-leash dog parks per capita: Portland, Ore. (5.5 for every 100,000 residents), Norfolk (4.9), Las Vegas (4.3), Madison, Wis. (3.4)
  • Number of skateboard parks per capita: leaders are Chula Vista, Calif. (2.9 for every 100,000 residents), Colorado Springs (1.9), and Reno, Nev. (1.8).
  • Number of employees per capita: leaders are Seattle, Virginia Beach, Va., St. Petersburg, Fla., and Tampa.
  • Largest municipally-owned parks: South Mountain Preserve (16,094 acres) in Phoenix, McDowell Sonoran Preserve (16,000) in Scottsdale, Ariz., Cullen Park (9,270) in Houston
  • Oldest parks in the 100 largest cities: Boston Common, Boston (1634), Rittenhouse Square, Philadelphia (1682), Battery Park, New York (1686), Military Park, Newark, N.J. (1697).
  • City parks with the most visitors: Central Park, New York (37.5 million), Lincoln Park, Chicago (20 million), Mission Bay Park, San Diego (16.5 million).
  • City Park Agencies that own the most land outside the city limits: Denver (14,221 acres), Albuquerque (10,884), Colorado Springs (6,811).

These and more are available in the report or in separately downloadable PDF and Excel files at http://cityparksurvey.tpl.org/reports.  There is no charge for any of this information.

Earlier this year, TPL launched its ParkScore project, which ranks the park systems of the nation’s 40 largest cities.  Using computerized mapping technology plus some data from City Park Facts, TPL gave highest rankings (4.5 “Park Benches” out of 5) to San Francisco and Sacramento.  (To see the full rankings, click here: http://cityparksblog.org/2012/05/23/what-is-your-citys-parkscore)

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