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ParkScore 2017 is coming on May 24

The Trust for Public Land will unveil the 2017 edition of ParkScore on Wednesday, May 24th.

The Parks and Recreation systems of the 100 largest US cities will be ranked from 1 to 100.  2017 will be the second year where we’ve evaluated and ranked 100 cities.  ParkScore began in 2012 with 40 cities ranked.

Before we launch, we wanted to provide the methodology behind ParkScore.

The methodology behind ParkScore is documented on the ParkScore website and is summarized by this handy chart…

methodology-circles

An individual city’s ParkScore is based on three factors…

Acreage or Park Size, which is based on a city’s median park size and the percentage of total city area dedicated to parks;

Facilities and Investment, which combines park spending per resident with the availability of four popular park amenities: basketball hoops, off-leash dog parks, playgrounds, and recreation & senior centers, and;

Park Access, which measures the percentage of residents living within a 10-minute walk of a park (approximately ½-mile)  Detailed information as to why we look at a 10-minute walk is covered in this post.

It’s important to note that we see ParkScore as a high level planning and analysis tool for park advocates and park planners and designers alike to plan for and advocate for parks as critical infrastructure for the each of the 100 largest US cities, which collectively have a population of 63 million and make up 20 percent of the US population.

ParkScore is a project of the Trust for Public Land.

We welcome your comments, questions and ideas on ParkScore or other work of the Center for City Park Excellence at ccpe@tpl.org

Why a 10-minute walk to a park?

10MW-legs-800x798

With the announcement on Tuesday of San Francisco becoming the first US city to achieve a 10-minte walk to a park for all citizens, we thought we’d provide the background on how we arrived to the 10-minute walk standard.  This research is also available on our parkscore website under the methodology section.

And we’ll be talking about this a lot more beginning next Wednesday, May 24th, when we unveil the 2017 edition of Parkscore.

Why a 10-minute walk to a park?

We have identified a half-mile, or 10-minute, walk to a park as a common national standard.

As cities vie to attract talented college graduates and sustain population growth, they are focusing attention on parks to increase livability and support a strong economy. Since parks must be convenient if they are to provide their benefits, many places have set goals for the maximum distance any resident should be from the nearest park. Although individual cities’ goals vary with population density, from a remarkable eighth of a mile in Chicago to two miles in Atlanta, our data supports a standard of no more than a half-mile as a reasonable distance to walk to a park.

Among the 100 largest cities in the U.S., 70 have explicit distance goals, with 43 (61 percent) using a half-mile standard. Of the remaining 27 cities, 12 have a standard of less than a half-mile (many using a quarter-mile), and 15 have a standard greater than a half-mile.

We identified several studies suggesting that most people are willing to walk half a mile to a park. The largest, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s 2012 National Survey of Bicyclist and Pedestrian Attitudes and Behavior, surveyed almost 10,000 people about their general walking habits.[1] The average trip length was 1.3 miles—roughly equivalent to the round-trip walk to a park located a half-mile from home. Of the walking trips reported in that study, 61 percent were for exercise, recreation, or walking the dog, with the remainder of trips split between commuting and errands.

A study of the Bay Area transit system found that 80 percent of transit riders who walked to the station lived within a ten-minute walk, or approximately a half-mile.[2]

Walking preferences are variable, with people willing to walk further for greater amenities in commuting, and even further for recreation. A planning study for a Seattle suburb found that people would walk nearly double the distance to a commuter rail station (1,700 feet) as they would to a bus stop (1,000 feet).[3] Looking beyond commuting, a study from Austin, Texas found that “utilitarian and recreational walk activities have been found to have distinct structural characteristics…Walk distance and duration for commuting, shopping, and reaching transportation are shorter, and recreational walks for exercise, walking the dog, and socializing are longer (71).”[4]

Some lower density cities have longer goal distances to a park, on the theory that suburbanites are more likely to drive to a park. However, the same Austin, Texas, study suggests that spatial and environmental factors are more important than individual factors” in determining walk length and duration (71).[5] That study found that people in modern suburban neighborhoods walked twice as long with their dogs and one-and-a-half times as long for exercise as those in more traditional urban neighborhoods.

Converting these distance standards to time standards hinges on how fast different people walk. The National Survey of Bicyclist and Pedestrian Attitudes and Behavior assumes an average walking speed of 0.53 miles in 10 minutes. The Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices guidelines, which are calculated to ensure that slow walkers can safely cross streets, uses an average walking speed of 0.45 miles in 10 minutes.[6] By any of these estimates, a 10-minute walk is a half-mile or close to it.

[1] U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, National Survey of Pedestrian and Bicyclist Attitudes and Behaviors (2012).
[2] California DOT, BART’s First Five Years; Transportation and Travel Impacts (DOT-P-30-79-8), (1979).
[3]The Snohomish County Transportation Authority, A Guide to Land Use and Public Transportation for Snohomish County, Washington (1989), http://ntl.bts.gov/DOCS/GL.html.
[4] Shriver, K., “Influence of Environmental Design on Pedestrian Travel Behavior in Four Austin Neighborhoods.” Transportation Research Record (1997), 64-75.
[5] Shriver, K., “Influence of Environmental Design on Pedestrian Travel Behavior in Four Austin Neighborhoods.” Transportation Research Record (1997), 64-75.
[6] LaPlante, J. and T. Kaiser, “A history of pedestrian signal walking speed assumptions,” 3rd Urban Street Symposium (Seattle, WA), (2007).

 

More on golf courses and their conversion to parks…

rancho-canada-carmel

Rancho Canada, Carmel, California

Back in March, we put out a call for news and stories on golf courses and their conversion to parks.  We also did more research and received a few tips and here’s an update to what we’ve found thus far…

  • Golf courses continue to decline from a peak of 16,052 courses in the US in 2005 to 15,372 in 2015. (Data from “The World of Golf” published by R & A, the global governing body for Golf, in 2015.)
  • The number of golfers are also declining in US, from a peak of 29.42 M in 2009 to 25.1 M in 2016.
  • There are 413 publicly owned golf courses in the 100 largest US cities, which is 2.69 percent of the total number of 15,372 courses.

While we have not seen many examples of public golf courses being converted to parks, we do find 14 private golf courses being purchased and converted to public parks in the past 12 years. The Trust for Public Land has been an integral part of the latter effort, working on 8 of the 14 in the past 12 years.

8 of those were projects of the Trust for Public Land, including 3 courses that we helped purchase in 2016 alone, including Applewood in Golden, Colorado and Rancho Canada in Carmel, California. Many more have been considered (and are being considered) but have not been successful due to price, funding or similar issues. 2 of the 14 are in the 100 largest US cities.

We’re continuing to follow this story and if you have additional information, examples or suggestions, please contact us at ccpe@tpl.org.

applewood-golfcourse

Applewood golf course, Golden, Colorado

City park facts: spending for public parks, part 1

2017-CPE-Spending

Part of our annual City Park Facts report focuses on spending in public parks in the 100 largest US cities. This includes park agency spending on parks and recreation specifically at the city, county, state, and federal level, as applicable in a given city.

Total spending* reported in our 2017 report is $7.09 Billion, which is up slightly from $7.07 Billion in 2016. Based on the population of the 100 largest cities (currently 63.57 Million or about 20 percent of the population of the US) this works out to $76 per person in our 100 largest US cities.

*-It is important to note that the spending total doesn’t include other maintenance and operation expenses that parks and recreation agencies might be responsible for, including cultural institutions, maintaining rights-of-way or street trees. Further, its only public agencies, no non-profit conservancy or foundation totals are included.  We’ll cover the scope and role of non-profit parks foundations, conservancies and friends groups in a future post. A good source of additional information is our 2015 Report: “Public Parks, Private Money: The Triumphs and Pitfalls of Urban Park Conservancies.”

The bulk of spending in parks (just under 75 percent in this year’s report) in the 100 largest US cities is for operation and maintenance – often called O & M. O & M includes everything from lawn mowing, to bills for water, heating and air conditioning, keeping pool and fountain systems working and painting the lines on playing fields. It also includes all programmatic spending, from running recreation programs to hiring and managing life guards and running swimming classes.

The remaining 25 percent of the budget is capital spending, which covers the replacement of existing facilities, like a playground, playing field or recreation center or construction of a new facility. Generally, city parks departments have both capital and operating and maintenance budgets and they are approved by elected city officials separately and come from separate funding sources.

The challenge for many city, state and federal parks agencies is in the operation and maintenance categories. For many years the approach, when revenues are down or declining, is to defer or delay maintenance. Over time, if budgets are increased to previous levels, deferred maintenance can easily lead to capital replacement costs.

Primarily, O & M funding comes from general revenue sources in our cities.  This is primarily property and sales tax receipts. There are lots of competing interests for these general revenue dollars and the top of the list is usually public safety (fire, police and ems) and a close second is public schools. Depending on the state that a given city is located in, there may be fewer general revenue dollars coming into a given city with a higher need from the public safety agencies. Further, there may be additional demands on that local pool of funds given that fewer contributions have been coming to cities through state or federal programs, which have been generally shrinking, in the past 20 plus years.

There is also stiff competition for capital dollars. Capital expenditures in our largest US cities focus primarily on infrastructure: ranging from bridges and roads to fire stations and yes, parks. And infrastructure spending remains very low in the US.  The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) publishes a report every four years on the state of infrastructure in the US and in 2017, they give Public Parks & Recreation a D+.

Depending on which state a city is located in there are a range of methods for raising capital money. The most common is through municipal bonds, in which the city borrows against its bond rating for money that it pays back at a low interest rate. Bonds can be authorized through a public vote of a city’s citizens or in some cases, through a vote of its city council. The Trust for Public Land has worked on hundreds of campaigns for bond elections, much of which is documented in our website, LandVote.

We’ll continue this topic in a future post focusing on public/private partnerships with non-profit foundations and conservancies.

You can download the 2017 City Park Facts report for free on the Trust for Public Land website.

The Center for City Park Excellence is part of The Trust for Public Land, which creates parks and protects land for people.

Questions, comments or ideas: Contact us at ccpe@tpl.org.

ASCE Infrastructure Report Card on Parks

Every four years, the American Society of Civil Engineers puts together an National Insfrastructure Report Card assigning individual letter grades on a variety of insfrastructure categories and an overall letter grade on the USA infrastructure overall.

reportcard-graphic

Since 2005, Public Parks and Recreation have been one of the categories evaluated, earning a C- grade for 2005, 2009 and 2013. Sadly, in 2017, it’s gone to a D+, which mirrors the national overall grade. You can read the highlights of the report here and download a full copy here.

asce=parks-grade

A couple of key points here. First, the ASCE considers public parks and recreation as infrastructure, providing a wide variety of environmental and economic services, as we all know.  One example highlighted by the report is the work of the Trust for Public Land in Newark, NJ along the Passaic River, developing the Newark Riverfront Park.

Second, they focus primarily on federal and state reporting of parks – primarily drawing on work done by the National Park Service and supporting non-profit foundations, as well as State park systems. US city park systems aren’t included, but the Trust for Public Land through the Center for City Park Excellence will work to provide that information through our City Park Facts and ParkScore projects.

More importantly, they recommend a number of action items, including one that the Trust for Public Land and the City Parks Alliance are actively advocating for, including the reauthorization and full funding of the Land and Water Conservation Fund to support acquisition of land and easements on land at the federal, state, and local levels.  

More of their recommendations are here. 

Questions, comments?  Contact the Center for City Park Excellence at the Trust for Public Land via email at ccpe@tpl.org