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100 Largest Cities: Seattle

Freeway Park fountains, Downtown Seattle

In anticipation of the release of City Park Facts next month and ParkScore in late May, we thought we’d start profiling some of the 100 largest cities that are featured in both City Park Facts and ParkScore. First up is Seattle, Washington, ranked 13 out of 100 in the 2016 edition of Parkscore.  (Seattle is behind #12 San Diego and just ahead of #14 Oakland.)  And for those of you keeping track of how Seattle and Portland compare, Portland is ranked #6.)


Activity in Downtown Seattle Parks

We were able to visit Seattle and some of their parks last fall and the accompanying pictures were taken during our trip.  We can obviously only scratch the surface of a city in just a few days, but wanted to share a few statistics.


Seattle has 6,590 acres of parkland out a total of 52,765 acres overall.  That’s 12.5 percent of the total city acreage. The median size of a park in Seattle is 2.4 acres, they have a population density of 12.3 people per acre and spend $274.96 per resident.


Westlake Park, Downtown Seattle

Check out the interactive ParkEvaluator map from Parkscore and see where Seattle ranks in terms of a 10-minute walk to a park.  (we ranked the 37 out of a maximum of 40 points, which is excellent)


Street / public staircase, Seattle

The Seattle Parks and Recreation Department works with many community and non-profit groups to maintain, improve and program their parks. Check out the Seattle Parks Foundation, Downtown Seattle Association’s Urban Parks Partnership, and Forterra and the Seattle office of the Trust for Public Land.

Stay tuned more profiles on parks in the 100 largest US cities in the coming weeks.  Please contact us at ccpe@tpl.org or post a comment to the blog, we’d love to hear from you.


Bike tour in Olympic Sculpture Park.


100 Largest Cities: Austin


Lady Bird Lake, Butler Trail and Auditorium Shores, Austin

Austin, the capital of Texas, is a well known destination for music, food as well as tech. Part of our 100 largest US cities list for our annual publications –  City Park Facts and ParkScore, Austin was ranked 47th out of 100 in 2016.

Parkscore 2017 will be released in late May, 2017, so stay tuned for the latest results on where Austin stacks up in 2017.


Butler Trail, Lady Bird Lake, downtown Austin

Half of the Center for City Park Excellence team (1 of 2) lived in Austin for over a decade and thoroughly enjoyed their park system. The city stretches over 186,902 acres and 14.6% of that is park land. Austin spends $92.14 per resident and the oldest park is Pease Park, established by a donation of land by the Pease family in 1876.  To see where Austin meets the 10-minute walk to a park goal, check out our Park Evaluator map for the city.


Shoal Creek inside Pease Park, Austin.

One of the most famous linear parks (out of many) is the Butler Trail that circles a big chunk of Lady Bird Lake (a portion of the Colorado River of Texas).  A newly added boardwalk portion closed a gap in the trail.  The views from the boardwalk are breathtaking and it connects to many other parks and trails in the heart of downtown Austin.


Shoal Creek Trail, Pease Park, Austin

Austin boasts a great volunteer culture and a number of non-profit parks organizations are working with the City to expand, improve and program parks. They include the Austin Parks Foundation, the Trail Foundation, the Pease Park Conservancy, The Hill Country Conservancy’s Violet Crown Trail project and the Shoal Creek Conservancy. One of the exciting projects about to break ground is the Waller Creek Conservancy’s project to transform Waller Creek that runs through the heart of inner city neighborhoods, the University of Texas and downtown Austin.  The Trust for Public Land has helped acquire parkland in both the city of Austin and surrounding counties as well, most recently for the Balcones National Wildlife Refuge.


Interactive Fountain, Town Lake Park, Austin.

We welcome your comments on Austin and other 100 largest US cities parks systems that we research, analyze and report on. You can reach us at ccpe@tpl.org or by commenting on this post.


The Value of Volunteers in City Parks

Every year, we ask a series of questions in the 100 largest US cities about parks. We ask those questions of city, county, state and federal parks agencies as well as non-profit partners including park foundations, park friends group, park conservancies and business improvement districts (BIDs). Since 2008, we have asked for volunteering numbers. We have not, to date, reported on these numbers in our annual City Park Facts. We wanted to share the latest years results since we think it’s pretty impressive.


Planting in Republic Square, Austin

Overall, we had 85 out of the 100 largest cities submit volunteer numbers.

All told, over 16.4 million volunteer hours were recorded, up from 15.5 million hours recorded in 2015.

These hours are equal to 7,895 additional full-time staff that would need to be hired by the 100 largest cities. [This was calculated using the following formula: one full-time staff person works 40 hours a week, 52 weeks a year or 2,080 hours per year. We realize that this is a very conservative calculation.]


Volunteers, Barton Creek Greenbelt, Austin

Another way to look at the contribution of volunteer hours is to assign a monetary value to them. We did this using numbers from Independent Sector. Independent Sector calculates the value of volunteering by state annually, so the amount varies in many of the 100 largest US cities, with the latest national (overall) value being $23.56 per hour. So, those 16.4 million volunteer hours are worth $411 Million using 2015 amounts.

In the meantime, we’re looking for volunteer reports from the following cities (park agencies, park conservancies, friends groups, BIDs, etc. working with volunteers) – Boise, Buffalo, Chesapeake, Chula Vista, El Paso, Fremont, Garland, Gilbert, Honolulu, Irvine, Irving, Laredo, Lubbock, Reno, and  Richmond.

Learn more about City Park trends in the 2017 edition of City Park Facts, coming in April to tpl.org (weblink: https://www.tpl.org/keywords/center-city-park-excellence)  If you have questions or comments about this or other city park facts, contact us at ccpe@tpl.org

7,453 Miles of Parkland Bikeways


Butler Trail at Lady Bird Lake, Austin, TX

The growing popularity of bikeways (often called hike and bike trails or linear parks) in our parks continues to climb, based on our annual surveys for City Park Facts and Parkscore. Please note that parkland bikeways don’t include bike lanes, sidewalks and other on-street or off-street portions of a city bicycle network or system.

In terms of total miles Irvine leads the pack with 324 miles, Phoenix has 310 miles, Anchorage 295 miles, Scottsdale 269 miles, Jacksonville 244 miles, and Philadelphia 241 miles.


Grand Rounds Scenic Byway System, Minneapolis

In the Per 10,000 residents column, Number one is Irvine with 13.4 miles per 10,000 residents,  Scottsdale is second with 11.6 miles per 10,000 residents.  Third is Anchorage with 9.7 miles per 10,000 residents.


Beltline Map, Atlanta

Here are a few of our favorite bikeways, among hundreds to choose from.

Learn more about City Park trends in the 2017 edition of City Park Facts, coming in April to the Trust for Public Land website. If you have questions or comments about this or other city park facts, contact us at ccpe@tpl.org. The City Parks Blog is a joint project of the City Parks Alliance and the Trust for Public Land.

100 Largest US Cities – What’s the deal?

Maybe its time to talk a bit about the 100 largest US cities are and what they represent in terms of acreage, population and where they are located.

To start, the full list is located on Parkscore or you can download the latest City Park Facts PDF. They are chosen by looking at the latest census data and the 2017 list will be the same as the 2016 list.

Acreage: in terms of our reporting for both City Park Facts and Parkscore, the acreage for all 100 largest cities is 11.45 million acres. The total acreage of the United States is 2.3 billion acres, with 1.9 Billion acres in the 48 contiguous states.

The population of the 100 largest US cities is 63.1 Million, which is 19.8 percent of the total population of the United States, which is 318.9 Million.

Overall, the 100 largest cities have 2,055,324 (over 2 million) acres of parkland, which is 17.94% of the total cities acreage. Here’s another of our forthcoming infographics showing the list of cities and the acreage.


Many of our 100 largest cities are clustered in groups. The biggest groups are in Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, North Carolina, Texas, and Virginia, as shown by the map.

Learn more about City Park trends in the 2017 edition of City Park Facts, coming in April to the Trust for Public Land website. If you have questions or comments about this or other city park facts, contact us at ccpe@tpl.org. The City Parks Blog is a joint project of the City Parks Alliance and the Trust for Public Land.