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ParkScore: Minneapolis is #1

ParkScore badges_Instagram_2017_1 Minneapolis

Congratulations to the Minneapolis Parks Board and the City of Minneapolis for being number one for the FIFTH year in a row! Minneapolis has a park within a ten-minute walk of 97 percent of their citizens, with 15 percent of the city as parkland and a median park size of 6.6 acres.  You can check out all of the details here or check out their map here.

Click on the photo to view the Minneapolis ParkScore profile and score results or here.

Better yet, make plans to join 1,000 park advocates, planners, programmers and managers at the Greater & Greener Parks Conference in Minneapolis and St. Paul (#2) July 29-August 2 and see the number 1 and 2 city parks systems for yourself.

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Micheal Langley (Greater MSP), Charlie McCabe (The Trust for Public Land), Jayne Miller (Minneapolis Parks Board) and Melvin Tennant (MeetMinneapolis) celebrate the fifth #1 win in a row)

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, it is 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.

Trash to Treasure – Landfills to Green Space

We recently spoke with CBRE’s Blueprint website on the process of conerting landsfills to parks and we wanted to share the resulting article.

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Community Gardens

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Infographic from City Park Facts, 2017

Community Gardens continue to grow in the parks of the 100 largest US cities. In 2017, there are a total of 1,138 community garden sites with 23,883 individual garden plots. This is an increase of 115 garden sites, adding 1,839 plots in the past year.

We measure community gardens in two ways for City Park Facts. Primarily, we focus on community garden plots – which are the specific garden plots or spaces that individuals or families get access to use for a season. A varied number of plots make up one community garden site, depending on the site, the parks agency and a host of other factors.

Further, it’s important to note that there are many more community gardens in other public and semi-public lands, including sites that might be targeted to build schools, housing or other public facilities. These are not counted in our totals, we we focus specifically on public parkland.

However, there are a number of organizations in US cities focused on providing information, tools and resources to locate and create public spaces, especially community gardens in non-park spaces.  A great example of the tools that these organizing efforts produce is in New York City with LivingLotsNYC.org, which one of several public is mapping tools developed by the Brooklyn based non-profit group, 596 Acres.

The 100 largest US cities with the most community garden sites are New York City with 346, Chicago #2 with 88, Portland #3 with 52, Washington DC with 49, and Seattle #5 with 48.

In terms of community garden plot totals, New York City is #1 with 3,420, Portland with 2,246, Washington DC with 2,300, and Los Angeles with 1,741 and San Francisco with 1,384.  

In terms of plots per 1,000 residents, Portland leads with 3.6, Washington, DC second with 3.5, Madison third with 3.0, and Milwaukee fourth with 1.8 and Seattle fifth with 1.7 plots per 1,000 residents.

Learn more about City Park trends in the 2017 edition of City Park Facts, coming April 20th to tpl.org. If you have questions or comments about this or other city park facts, contact us at ccpe@tpl.org

The Frontline Parks of 2016

Each month, City Parks Alliance names one “Frontline Park” as a standout example of urban park excellence, innovation, and stewardship. The program highlights parks and programs that find innovative ways to meet the unique challenges facing city park professionals and their communities. In 2016 we focused on successful park partnerships including local museums, fire departments or transportation agencies.

City parks play a vital role in the social, economic and physical well-being of America’s cities and their residents. As cities become more densely populated, planners, elected officials, and community advocates are taking a fresh look at parks and their potential to help address critical urban infrastructure and public health issues. City parks provide access to recreational opportunities, increase property values, spur local economies, combat crime, and protect cities from environmental impacts. Parks are now recognized as powerful tools for urban communities and local economies and our 2016 Frontline Parks are great examples for cities of all sizes.

As we gear up for a new round of features, we want to congratulate all of our 2016 Frontline Parks and we hope they inspire you to nominate your favorite park in 2017!

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Buhl Community Park
(Pittsburgh, PA)
The Children’s Museum teamed up with the community to turn a dilapidated plaza into a new park. Best museum entrance ever!

 

 

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Crissy Field
(San Francisco, CA)
It’s hard to believe now, but this section of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area was a military airfield before it was cleaned up and restored. A+ view.

 

 

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Kathryn Albertson Park
(Boise, ID)
This gem in a ribbon of parks named for prominent Boise women was designed as a sanctuary for migratory birds and other wildlife.

 

 

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Avalon & Gage Park
(Los Angeles, CA)
A partnership between community members, the city, and a land trust turned this traffic island into a much needed park and playground.

 

 

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Buffalo Bayou
(Houston, TX)
The re-greening of Houston begins with the bayou. Take a pontoon boat tour to see the full scope of this network of waterways and parks.

 

 

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Westown Commons Park
(Grand Rapids, MI)
Thanks to a new tax levy and community volunteer effort, Westown Commons has an updated look, more visitors, and a popular new skate park.

 

 

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Frogtown Park & Farm
(Saint Paul, MN)
Why stop at gardening? The residents of this diverse community have a new park for recreation, and a working 5-acre farm for growing produce. Attending Greater & Greener, sign up for a tour!

 

 

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Buchanan Mall
(San Francisco, CA)
This activation project is revitalizing a stretch of parkland for 30,000 people in the Western Addition neighborhood of San Francisco.

 

 

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Webber Park
(Minneapolis, MN)
Three words: Natural. Swimming. Pool. Go to Webber Park when the ground thaws, or as part of your Greater & Greener experience next summer.

 

 

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Fort Worth Nature Center & Refuge
(Fort Worth, TX)
This park partnered with the fire department for prescribed burns, keeping the park clear of fire fuel and urban firefighters prepared for extinguishing property-threatening wildfires.

 

 

Bremen Street Park
East Boston Greenway
(Boston, MA)
Not only does it link new, old, and improved parks together, the Greenway also allows bike and pedestrian access to three ‘T’ stations as well as Logan Airport.

 

 

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Tanner Springs Park
(Portland, OR)
This model of park sustainability sits atop a former railyard and brownfield in northwest Portland. It’s a nice, quiet place to read those new books from Powell’s.

 

 

The Frontline Parks program is made possible by DuMor, Inc. and PlayCore.