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Announcing ParkScore 2018

The Trust for Public Land Releases 2018 ParkScore® Index

Ranking Park Systems in the 100 Largest U.S. Cities

Index Reports Improvements in Park Access and Funding Nationwide, but More Progress Needed to Ensure All Residents Live within a 10-Minute Walk of a Park

San Francisco – Minneapolis has the best park system in the United States, according to The Trust for Public Land’s 7th annual ParkScore® index, which was released today by the nonprofit organization.

Minneapolis narrowly edged neighboring Saint Paul to earn top honors for the third consecutive year. A different regional rivalry claimed third and fourth place, as Washington, DC, barely outscored Arlington, Virginia, to hold on to third. In another big move, Chicago cracked the top 10 for the first time in ParkScore history.

Among the largest 100 ParkScore cities, public spending on parks reached $7.5 billion in 2018, a $429 million increase over the previous year. This additional funding contributed to a slight increase in park access overall. According to The Trust for Public Land, 70 percent of residents in ParkScore cities live with a 10-minute walk (or a half-mile) of a park, up from 69 percent last year.

The national nonprofit organization is leading a movement to put a park or natural area within a 10-minute walk of every U.S. resident. More than 200 mayors have endorsed the 10-minute goal.

“The research is clear: quality, close-to-home parks are essential to communities. Everyone deserves a great park within a 10-minute walk of home,” said Diane Regas, President and CEO of The Trust for Public Land. “These rankings are the gold-standard for park access and quality, and empower people to hold their leaders accountable.”

Charlotte settled at the bottom of the ParkScore list, ranking just below Fresno, CA, Mesa, AZ, and Hialeah, FL. Fort Wayne and Indianapolis declined to participate in ParkScore 2018 and were not ranked. Gilbert, AZ, was not ranked because the necessary data was unavailable.

THE DETAILS:

This year, ParkScore rankings are based equally on four factors: Park Access, which measures the percentage of residents living within a 10-minute walk of a park; Park Acreage, which is based on a city’s median park size and the percentage of total city area dedicated to parks; Park Investment, which measures park spending per resident; and Park Amenities, which counts the availability of six popular park features: basketball hoops, off-leash dog parks, playgrounds, “splashpads” and other water play structures, recreation and senior centers, and restrooms.

The addition of restrooms and splashpads to the Park Amenities rating factor is a significant update and improvement for ParkScore in 2018. The index also now includes volunteer hours and charitable contributions in its calculation of parks spending, providing a ranking boost to cities whose residents strongly support their park systems.

ParkScore champion Minneapolis scored well on all ParkScore rating factors. In Minneapolis, 97 percent of residents live within a 10-minute walk of a park, and 15 percent of city area is reserved for parks. Second-place finisher Saint Paul outscored Minneapolis for park amenities but fell to second overall because of its smaller median park size (3.2 acres vs. 5.7 acres). Fifth place San Francisco remains the only city with 100 percent 10-minute park access, but the city’s small median park size of 1.3 acres negatively affects its overall ranking.

Boise successfully defended its title as the best park system for dogs, with a nation-leading 6.7 dog parks per 100,000 residents. Norfolk, VA received top marks for basketball hoops, Madison scored best for playgrounds, and Cleveland edged out New York for splashpads and water features.

“High quality parks make cities healthier in nearly every way. Proximity to parks increases physical activity levels among children and adults, reducing risk for obesity, diabetes, and other serious health conditions. Parks also help clean the air, mitigate the risk of storm damage, build relationships among neighbors, and contribute to economic growth,” said Adrian Benepe, senior vice president and director of city park development for The Trust for Public Land.

According to The Trust for Public Land, the 10 highest-ranking park systems in the United States are:

Rank       City                             ParkScore  (Max: 100)

  1.        Minneapolis, MN         84.2
  2.        Saint Paul, MN             82.4
  3.        Washington, DC           81.9
  4.        Arlington, VA                81.6
  5.        San Francisco, CA        79.6
  6.        Portland, OR                 78.3
  7.       Cincinnati, OH               78.2
  8.       Chicago, IL                      76.1
  9.       New York, NY                 74.8
  10.       Irvine, CA                        73.4

ParkScore uses advanced GIS (Geographic Information Systems) computer mapping technology to create digital maps evaluating park accessibility. Instead of measuring distance to a local park, ParkScore’s GIS technology takes into account the location of park entrances and physical obstacles to access. For example, if residents are separated from a nearby park by a major highway, ParkScore does not count the park as accessible to those residents, unless there is a bridge, underpass, or easy access point across the highway. The Trust for Public Land collaborated with GIS industry leader Esri on GIS design and implementation.

Municipal leaders can use ParkScore-generated maps to guide park improvement efforts, studying park access on a block-by-block basis and pinpointing the areas where new parks are needed most. The website is free and available to the public, empowering local residents to hold their elected leaders accountable for achieving equitable access to quality parks for all.

For more information about ParkScore, visit http://www.tpl.org/10minutewalk and join the discussion on Twitter @TPL_org, #ParkScore #10minwalk.

The Trust for Public Land creates parks and protects land for people, ensuring healthy, livable communities for generations to come. Millions of people live within a 10-minute walk of a Trust for Public Land park, garden, or natural area, and millions more visit these sites every year. To support The Trust for Public Land and share why nature matters to you, visit http://www.tpl.org.

ParkServe 1.0 is released! How far are you from a park?

parkserve-arlington-top

The official version 1.0 of ParkServe is released!  Visit parkserve.tpl.org and look up your town or city.  The Trust for Public Land has mapped 13,913 urban communities – 85 percent of the population of the United States – and can show you where you’re nearest park is, what percentage of your community’s population is within a 10-minute walk and even includes the Park Evaluator tool to see how adding parks will help your community and it’s 10-minute walk score.

parkserve-arlington-map.PNG

Want details on how we developed ParkServe?  We have answers on our methodology page.

We’re looking for feedback and input too, so if you see a park that is missing or is incomplete, please let us know.

 

18 Amazon HQ2 finalists are ParkScore cities

10mw-girlonlawn

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.

How big or small are parks in US cities?

republicnow

For our work on the Trust for Public Land’s ParkScore, we know the median size of a park in the 100 largest US cities is 3.8 acres.  We recently got a request to calculate how parks break down in size amongst the 100 largest cities.  We looked at the data a number of different ways, and how it differs based on city population as well as density.  Here’s what we found.

Overall for the 100 largest US cities (includes all public parkland, regardless of ownership by city, county, state and federal governments)

  • .25 (or less) acre: 12.3%
  • .25 to 1 acre: 16.3%
  • 1 to 2 acres: 11.1%
  • 2 to 5 acres: 17.6%
  • 5 to 7 acres: 6.9%
  • 7 to 10 acres: 7.6%
  • 10 to 15 acres: 6.9%
  • greater than 15 acres: 28.2%

We wondered if there was a difference in these breakdowns for cities with larger populations versus small populations, so we did some additional analysis.

For cities with populations in the 600,000 to 800,000 range (Baltimore, Boston, Denver, Detroit, El Paso, Las Vegas, Louisville, Memphis, Nashville, Oklahoma City, Seattle, Washington, DC.), we found the following:

  • .25 (or less) acre: 16.6%
  • .25 to 1 acre: 19.5%
  • 1 to 2 acres: 10.7%
  • 2 to 5 acres: 16.6%
  • 5 to 7 acres: 6.1%
  • 7 to 10 acres: 6.9%
  • 10 to 15 acres: 5.3%
  • greater than 15 acres: 18.2%

For cities with populations under 250,000 (Arlington (VA), Baton Rouge, Boise, Chesapeake, Fremont, Garland, Glendale, Hialeah, Irving, Norfolk, North Las Vegas, Reno, Richmond, Scottsdale, Winston-Salem), we found the following:

  • .25 (or less) acre: 6%
  • .25 to 1 acre: 14.6%
  • 1 to 2 acres: 10.7%
  • 2 to 5 acres: 20.1%
  • 5 to 7 acres: 8.6%
  • 7 to 10 acres: 9.2%
  • 10 to 15 acres: 9.1%
  • greater than 15 acres: 21.9%

Finally, we also looked at cities with lower population densities* (10 to 15 persons per acre) and found the following:

  • .25 (or less) acre: 17.2%
  • .25 to 1 acre: 19.5%
  • 1 to 2 acres: 10.9%
  • 2 to 5 acres: 15.5%
  • 5 to 7 acres: 5.5%
  • 7 to 10 acres: 6.9%
  • 10 to 15 acres: 5.6%
  • greater than 15 acres: 19%

(*-includes Anahiem, Arlington (VA), Baltimore, Buffalo, Long Beach, Los Angeles, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, Oakland, Seattle.)

Stay tuned for further analysis as we dig into our ParkServe index. (7700 cities, towns and communities rated for 10 minute walk to a park access.)  Below is a screen shot showing results from suburban Boston.

Arlington-map-big

Giving thanks for our city parks

It’s the busiest travel day of the year as I write this, and I’m looking out from my window at the Trust for Public Land offices in Boston over the historic Granary Burying Ground and its amazing canopy of trees which is a historic park and a very popular tourist destination in its own right. I can see people walking along the paths, looking for final resting places of John Hancock, Sam Adams and Paul Revere.  At some point, we’ll hear tour guides in colonial dress talking about the site and its place in history.  It’s great to have a window seat overlooking a city park, given my work at the Trust for Public Land.

acadia-steps

2017 has been filled with highs and lows, but I’m thankful for my job – researching trends, best practices and the many ways that park agencies continue to care for our urban park systems. Since late September, we have been conducting our annual city parks survey which provides the data for creation of our two big annual “publications” – City Park Facts – an almanac of the parks systems of the 100 largest U.S. cities as well as the ParkScore Index , a ranking of the park systems of those same 100 largest U.S. cities.

For the first time this year, we’re surveying several hundred non-profit park foundations and conservancies that work hand in hand with the city, county, state and federal agencies that operate, maintain and program our 2 million acres of parks in our 100 largest cities. For the nearly 20 percent of the U.S. population that lives in those cities, parks are both natural refuges as well as playgrounds for 60 million people who live in those 100 largest cities, as well as millions more in the communities that surround them.

It takes a lot of work to keep our parks and public spaces in good working order. And, a string of natural disasters have challenged our parks agencies in a number of communities for sure. Severe wind, rain and flooding have knocked parks, trails and indoor facilities out of commission for weeks and months.  Park agency employees have lost cars, their homes, and personal possessions. Tons of debris and silt have clogged waterways and linear parks with flooding. National parks, preserves and forests in Florida and Puerto Rico have been severely damaged. And then, there is the cycle of drought and flood that parts of the U.S. experience with seasonal regularity, often resulting in the loss of homes, loved ones and beloved public spaces.

That said, we as a country continue to rise to the challenge and look for ways to donate, volunteer and vote for our parks. As Adrian Benepe, SVP at the Trust for Public Land noted in a recent Huff Post piece, voters in 26 communities approved $1.5 B in bonds for parks and conservation in November elections. In both Houston and south Florida, people contributed to funds to help park staff who lost their homes and possessions with donations – over $95,000 raised in Houston and thousands raised for National Park Service staff in south Florida and the keys.

In addition, many Americans contribute their time (16.4 million hours donated to the 100 largest U.S. city parks systems in 2016 alone), and donate funds to both public and non-profit parks agencies. Here’s two things you can do for your own parks over the next week.

First, while the day after Thanksgiving is usually known as Black Friday (when the holiday shopping season begins officially) is also known as #OptOutside day, begun by REI three years ago when they decided to close all of their stores and give their employees a day off. I am planning on going on a hike, myself, but it can be any activity and if the weather is cooperating where you live, you should too!  Bring your family, friends, dogs. Take photos. Tell others. (My helpful tip – bring a trash bag and pick up any trash or recycleables that you find along the way.)

The second day is next Tuesday, November 28, as known as #GivingTuesday. Started by the 92nd Street YMCA in NYC, it is a global day of giving, with many parks and environmental non-profit organizations participating.  Please consider a donation to The Trust for Public Land and the City Parks Alliance (the two parks non-profits that bring you this blog) as well as the many great parks foundations and conservancies doing work in our cities and communities across the US. They need your help more than ever.

Happy Thanksgiving and enjoy your parks!

remy-charlie

The author (Charlie) and one of his hiking partners (foster dog Remy)