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Golf Course conversions to public parks

Millbrook Green-banner

The former Millbrook Golf Course, now a public park, in Windsor, CT.

A recent article in CityLab discussed the continuing decline of golf in the United States and mentioned that the total number of private golf courses has shrunk, especially in the wake of the Great Recession. While the article focused on the potential conversion to residential and commercial uses, it did mention the conversion of private courses into public parks in a number of cities and towns across the country.  The Trust for Public Land is an active participant in creating public parks from private golf courses.  We work with towns, cities and towns in acquiring golf courses for public parks for a variety of both environmental and recreational uses. Our most recent acquisition is in Windsor, CT, but we’ve also acquired golf courses recently in Marin County, California, Portland, Oregon, Rancho Canada, California and Golden, Colorado.   More about this trend in our updated post, below.

Executive Summary:

The total number of golf courses has been steadily shrinking in the US for the past decade or so.  According the “The World of Golf” study published in 2015 by The R & A (Global Governing body for Golf) the number of courses in the US is 15,372, down from a high of 16,052 courses around the year 2005[1].

Data collected by The Trust for Public Land for the annual City Park Facts report shows the current number of public golf courses in the 100 largest U.S. cities is 413, up from 400 in 2010. Thus, the number of public golf courses is 2.69 percent of the current overall total.[2]

While we have not seen many examples of public golf courses being converted to parks, we do find 19 public or 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 9 of the 19 in the past 12 years.

Usage in golf courses, according to the National Golf Foundation is declining. In 2000, there were 28.8 M golfers, growing to 29.42 M in 2009, then falling by end of 2016 to 23.8 M golfers.[3] The number of rounds went from 518.4 M rounds in 2000 to 465.5 M rounds in 2013.[4] [5]

Examples of Golf Course to Park conversions in the past 10-12 years. We’ve found a total of 15 in the past 12 years that have been acquired, now in process to convert them into parks or nature preserves or fully converted. Many more have been considered, especially in Florida, Texas, Arizona and California. A current trend is also considering them for conversion to housing subdivisions or commercial or industrial development.  Recent examples include: Tampa [See: http://www.tbo.com/news/localgovernment/pasco-commission-okays-quail-hollow-golf-course-conversion/2330077 ] among many others.

Current / recent golf course conversions to public parks:

Historic conversions of golf courses to public parks:

Examples of restoration techniques and processes used to convert golf courses to parks:

References:

Footnotes:

[1] – Information from the R & A and The National Golf Foundation – websites.

[2] – City Parks Facts 2017, The Trust for Public Land –

[3] – “Annual participation report uncovers favorable trends for the game’s future” April 22, 2017 in Golfdigest.com

[4] – Information from The National Golf Foundation – http://secure.ngf.org/cgi/faqa.asp?

[5] – Information from Statista – https://www.statista.com/statistics/227420/number-of-golfers-usa/

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.

Please take our ParkScore survey

Do you have a few minutes?

Can you take our ParkScore survey?

The Trust for Public Land has produced ParkScore for the last six years and we’re looking for feedback as well as informing it’s future directions.  Please take a few minutes and complete our survey – and thank you!

ParkScore badges_Instagram_2017_1 Minneapolis

ParkScore badges_Instagram_2017_2 St. Paul

And if you’re unaware of ParkScore, please check it out. The Trust for Public Land puts out an annual ranking of park systems of the 100 largest US cities.

methodology-circles

The Creative Culture of Parks: Moving from Pop-ups to Permanent

Can pop-up parks and public space projects trigger investment in new public parks?  Is there a role for community-generated projects in the formal planning process?

ccop2The Miami Foundation is working to find out with its Miami Public Space Challenge, now going into its fifth year.  The Public Space Challenge uncovers the best ideas for creating, improving and activating parks, plazas, and local gathering places. Since 2013 more than 1,432 project submissions have been made and $870,000 awarded for 70 projects.  Continue reading

Whatever the Weather: A Guide to Resilient Design

We’ve been feeling the effects of climate change a lot lately—drought in California, record highs of up to 120 degrees Fahrenheit in Arizona, hurricanes and superstorms—to name just a few. Atmospheric scientists now say the carbon dioxide levels may have permanently surpassed 400 ppm. It’s safe to say this bad weather is probably only going to get worse.

With this in mind, the American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) recently released a guide on resilient design, aimed at helping communities better weather these events, and rebuild quicker when destruction does happen. To quote from the press release, it “includes numerous case studies and resources demonstrating multi-benefit systems as well as the small-scale solutions that fit within those. The guide also explains landscape architects’ role in the planning and design teams helping to make communities more resilient.”

Ultimately, the guide emphasizes that “working with nature, instead of in opposition to it” is the way forward. Much of our current large-scale infrastructure (think walls, dams, and sewers) is ill-equipped to handle today’s extreme weather, and is only becoming more expensive to build and maintain. Resilient landscape planning offers ways to mitigate these threats in a multi-faceted way as opposed to the traditional single-solution approach which, when it fails, offers no backup.

The guide is organized around six types of natural disasters. Each section discusses how resilient design can be used, outlines some co-benefits (part of the strength of these techniques comes from the fact that many play more than one role, or can have more than one impact), and details more specifically how landscape planning can be used in implementing a design. This portion of the guide is fairly brief, but is bolstered by a number of case studies and other resources.

Resilient planning to support biodiversity emphasizes the important role that varied species—both flora and fauna—play within an ecosystem by enhancing the services that it provides. Some possible approaches include habitat restoration, planting with biodiversity in mind, and building wildlife corridors.

Planning for drought takes a number of different approaches, from utilizing gray water for watering lawns, to landscaping with drought resistant plants, to designing to best capture and direct precious water resources.

Design approaches to dealing with extreme heat mostly center around vegetation; planting and maintaining a tree canopy, and increasing green wherever else possible, such as green roofs and alleys.

nyc-green-roofs

Before (2007) and after (2013) comparison of a NYC Parks Green Roofs Project. (Credit: NYC Parks Green Roofs)

Fires are a significant threat and are perhaps the most difficult to plan for out of all of the disasters discussed. Planting fire-resistant vegetation can help, and landscape design can be used to create “defensible spaces” to help slow or stop a spreading fire.

Resilient design offers a few approaches to planning for flooding, including preserving riparian areas and ecosystems to act as buffers or channels, and designing parks and other green space to capture, hold, and filter water.

Cromwell Park

Cromwell Park in Shoreline, WA can hold an acre-foot of water (almost 435,000 gallons), enough to eliminate the neighborhood flooding problem. (Credit: City of Shoreline)

Proper design and planning is key to preventing landslides. Working with the natural contours of the land, utilizing vegetation and root systems to combat erosion, and carefully selecting or even strengthening the soil can all help lessen this threat.

The resources offered range from federal research and guides (such as from EPA and NOAA), to interviews with experts in each topic, to National Geographic articles. Perhaps even more useful are the case studies, which include everything from site-specific project pages to city-wide master plans. ASLA has created a guide that has a lot to offer in the way of inspiration and direction for those looking for ways to start planning for the future.