• Who We Are

    City Parks Blog is a joint effort of the Center for City Park Excellence at the Trust for Public Land and the City Parks Alliance to chronicle the news and issues of the urban park movement. Read more about us.
  • Urban Park Issues

  • Enter your email address to receive notifications of new City Parks Blog posts by email.

  • Archives

  • Urban Green Cover Ad

City Park Report Season Begins in one week!

Beginning a week from today (3/23/18) we’ll going to start sharing the latest data on parks – specifically about the 100 largest U. S. cities.  The data comes from the annual city park survey that the Trust for Public Land’s Center for City Park Excellence conducts each fall.  We survey all public park agencies operating in the 100 largest cities – about 300 in all to get a sense of everything from acreage to amenities to spending.  New this year, we’ll surveyed an additional 160 plus parks non-profits in those same 100 cities.

There’s a lot to share and we’ll be doing so over the next few months, leading up to the release of City Park Facts and ParkScore in late May.

To whet your appetite, we have seen an increase in the population of the 100 U. S. cities grow by over 1 million people to 64.7 million from 63.57 million people in 2017.

Questions, comments or suggestions:  You can reach the Center for City Park Excellence at the Trust for Public Land at ccpe@tpl.org.

18 Amazon HQ2 finalists are ParkScore cities


Like many people, we looked with interest at the list of Amazon HQ2 finalist cities and quickly those that are ParkScore cities. The exceptions are Montgomery County, MD and Toronto. We also substituted Arlington, VA for Northern Virginia. Here’s the list, the percentage of residents within a 10 minute walk to a park, and the 2017 ParkScore ranking:

  • Washington DC – 98%  – 4th
  • Arlington (we counted it as Northern Virginia) – 98% – 6th 
  • New York City – 97% – 7th
  • Chicago -97% – 11th
  • (Seattle is also ranked 11 with 94%)
  • Boston – 98% – 13th
  • Denver -86% – 20th
  • Philadelphia – 93% – 32nd
  • Raleigh – 54% – 35th
  • Pittsburgh – 84% – 39th
  • Austin – 54% –  46th
  • Miami – 80% – 48th
  • Atlanta – 66% – 50th
  • Dallas – 60% – 50th
  • Nashville – 38% – 53rd
  • Columbus – 52% –  56th
  • Los Angeles – 54% – 74th
  • Newark – 90% – 81st
  • Indianapolis – 32% – 98th

Congratulations to all of the finalists. We know that each of the cities listed above have dedicated parks departments and non-profit parks organizations who work together to program, maintain and expand their park systems for all residents. Regardless of which of these cities gets the Amazon HQ2, they could all use more parkland and more funding – for capital projects, programming and maintenance and operations right now. And it goes without saying that the city that gets selected is going to need even more parks and funding.

If you want to learn more about this cities and their park systems, visit The Trust for Public Land or our ParkScore websites.

Wintertime in our Parks

As we rush headlong into a week bookended by two long holiday weekends, we might not think first of what continues to happen in our parks, whether we’re in the colder northern parts of the United States or the warmer southern reaches. Increasingly, there are more and more outdoor activities during the winter months that you can enjoy in parks across the United States. So, dress appropriately and come out to work off that eggnog and pie!


Photo courtesy of  Bryant Park

Ice Skating is a long-standing popular activity.  Close our Boston office is the Frog Pond on the Boston Common. Also popular are the LeFrak Center at Lakeside in Prospect Park in Brooklyn, and Bryant Park in New York City. New on horizon, with a twist is bumper cars on ice at the ice skating rink in downtown Providence, Rhode Island.


Picture courtesy of Frog Pond, Boston Common

San Francisco is another city that combines ice skating with a variety of other activities during the holiday week at Embarcadero Plaza, a variety of free activities are offered on selected days with Tuesdays for Disc Golfing, Wednesdays: Skateboarding, Thursdays: Rock Climbing, Fridays: Skateboarding, and Saturdays for Slacklining.


Winterfest at the Arch (courtesy of Gateway Arch Park)

Not to be outdone, Gateway Arch Park in Saint Louis Winterfest at the Arch at the Kiener Plaza in downtown Saint Louis from December 21st through January 1st has a skating along with special events including food trucks, live music, and giveaways.


Skijoring in With Park (courtesy of the Loppet Foundation)

The Minneapolis Park Board partners with the Loppet Foundation to sponsor winter activities including cross-country skiing, hiking and skijoring in Wirth Park in Minneapolis.

Later this winter, Saint Paul will host their annual Winter Carnival (Jan 25-Feb 10) and they are working to raise funds to build a multi-story peoples’ ice palace. The center of activities is Rice Park in downtown Saint Paul.


There’s many, many more activities and events planned and we’d love to hear about them as we’re (the Center for City Park Excellence at The Trust for Public Land) working to compile a longer report on winter activities in city parks. Please contact us at ccpe@tpl.org



Park Signage: 2017

I’ve had the opportunity to visit a number of cities and their park systems in 2017 through my work with The Trust for Public Land as well as in my spare time.  I love examining the features of parks and have been paying close attention to signage in the past few years. I wanted to share a few of the many park signs that I saw in the past year as a fun end of the year retrospective.

– Charlie McCabe, Center for City Park Excellence, The Trust for Public Land.


The signage shown above is from the following cities: Albuquerque, Atlanta, Austin, Boston, Dallas, Gloucester, Houston, Minneapolis, New York City, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, St John (NB, Canada), St. Paul, San Francisco.




Park Profile: Underground at Ink Block

A few years ago, the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) decided to create some public space out of the darkened areas under the 1-93 overhead highway just south of downtown Boston.  It wasn’t the first place you’d expect a new public space.


Location of Underground at Ink Block in Boston (from their website)


Murals on highway retaining walls and on the hike and bike footpaths.

The space that they had in mind was surrounded by commuter rail lines running to nearby South Station, waterfront along Fort Point Channel, and South Boston on the other side, and surface streets and the rapidly revitalizing “New York Streets” section of the South End of Boston, home to both restored factory buildings as well as new development.


One of the landscaped rain garden / storm water garden areas.

The resulting 8-acre Underground at Ink Block, which formally opened in the fall of 2017, is part park, part water garden/filtration system, part art project, part paid parking lot, part-secured bike storage, and part dog park – all nestled under I-93 in between the South End and South Boston, owned by MassDOT,  and operated by a local property owner, National Development


The parking lot provides weekly parking (and resulting) revenue as well as an expanded area to hold weekend festivals, when the need for parking isn’t so great.  A series of murals, to be updated on a regular basis, cover highway retaining walls, the foot paths in and out of the Underground, as well as storage containers and electrical service utility boxes.


Then there’s the goal of managing storm water. Downspouts from the highway above are channeled into a new of large, landscaped water gardens that hold runoff and slowly release it back into the ground via drains.  Signage explains how the system works.


One of the largest rain garden / storm water garden areas.


Stormwater Management – Interpretive Signage


How highway maintenance is performed without damaging the park and gardens.


Waterfront path and views (looking north)


Dog park double gate and “king of the mountain” mound directly behind.


Paths along Fort Point Channel, looking south.

For further information on the Underground at Ink Block, visit the official website or Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.