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ParkScore: Seattle and Chicago Tied for #11

ParkScore badges_Instagram_2017_11 Chicago

On Wednesday, May 24th, the Trust for Public Land rolled out the 2017 edition of ParkScore, the annual ranking of the parks systems of the 100 largest US cities. We’re highlighting results on this blog, but you can check out all of the details at parkscore.tpl.org.

This year, Seattle and Chicago tied for 11th place.  For both, it’s a move upwards in the ranks – in the case of Seattle, they were 13th in 2016 and in the case of Chicago, they were 15th.  Rankings are calculated using a formula that combines Acreage, Access and Investment and Amenities, which is explained in greater detail below.

ParkScore badges_Instagram_2017_11 Seattle

Acreage – includes median park size and parkland as percent of city area. (The median acreage for a park in the 100 largest US cities is 5.0 acres, Seattle has 2.4 acres and Chicago has 1.4 acres. The median percentage of parkland for the 100 largest US cities is 9.3 percent. Chicago has 10 percent and Seattle has 12 percent.)

Access – percent of residents within a 10 minute walk to a park.  (The median for the 100 largest US cities is 66 percent.  Chicago has 97 percent and Seattle has 94 percent.)

Spending – this is a 3 year average of the most recently completed fiscal years.  (The median is $80 per resident for the 100 largest US cities. Chicago is $173 per resident and Seattle is $279 per resident.)

Amenities – basketball hoops, dog parks, playgrounds, recreation & senior centers. We’ve landed on these four amenities because they are a) simple to count and quantify b) occur in all cities and park systems with little influence by region/geography etc. and c) most importantly, because they reflect the needs of a diverse population. Together these amenities serve very young children, active youths and adults, those with pets (who may or may not have children, plus dog parks are an increasingly popular and desired type of park or amenity), and a more elderly or less active population as well.

Press coverage on ParkScore for both cities includes:

For more information, visit each city’s parks & recreation websites: Chicago Park District and Seattle Parks and Recreation.

And if you have questions about ParkScore, please email us at ccpe@tpl.org.

13,544 Playgrounds

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Larch Park, Los Angeles

What feature of a park does everyone expect? A playground of course!  Playgrounds have grown in both number and sophistication over the years that the Trust for Public Land has been working on building and re-working them.  While the focus on safety as well as accessibility (as governed by local and state guidelines for the Americans with Disabilities Act (or the ADA as we often refer to it), there’s increasingly a fun element to them, as shown by these pictures.

In terms of our City Park Facts measurement of “per 10,000 residents,” Madison is #1 with 7.1 playgrounds per 10,000 residents (173 playgrounds), Cincinnati is #2 with 5.0 (152 playgrounds), Detroit #3 with 4.7 (309 playgrounds), Omaha #4 for 4.4 (193) and Norfolk #5 with 4.2 (103 playgrounds)

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Schoolyard Playground, New York City

In terms of overall numbers, New York City is first with 1,669 playgrounds, Chicago second with 660, Houston third with 452, Los Angeles fourth with 433 and Detroit fifth with 309.

Overall, there are 13,544 playgrounds in the 100 largest US cities. Since 2010, the number of playgrounds has increased over 17%, from 11,160, with 2,394 additional playgrounds added.

Some recent Trust for Public Land playground projects include New York City, Philadelphia, East Los Angeles, and San Francisco.

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

playgrounds

Infographic from City Park Facts

Friends of the Parks Welcomes Obama Library to the South Side

On August 3, Friends of the Parks, an open space advocacy group in Chicago, announced that it will welcome the Obama Presidential Library despite misgivings about the location of the building.

Friends of the Parks Executive Director Juanita Irizarry stated that though the organization opposes building the library on existing parkland when there is vacant space nearby, “…the organization will not sue as it is our understanding that the site that was chosen apparently is not public trust land—unlike the proposed sites for the Lucas Museum.”

The group will continue to urge the library foundation to work closely with the surrounding community to address community benefit agreements, public access to the affected parks as well as regular communication with all stakeholders, and to maintain the design integrity of the historic park.

Read the full statement here.

A Different Kind of Tragedy of the Commons?

606lineThe new 606 is open in Chicago – a mix of 2.7 miles of elevated trail with four ground-level parks along the route. Amidst the excitement of this new linear park, which will bridge four neighborhoods historically underserved by parks, is the familiar cautionary tale about its potential gentrifying impact. Like New York’s High Line, the badly needed park amenity is being viewed partly in light of its negative effects on the neighborhood it was designed to serve. (The New Yorker art critic Peter Schjeldahl said about the High Line, “As a catalyst of neighborhood change, the High Line has been to usual gentrification what a bomb is to bottle rockets.”)

But the issue of the impact of a new park on property values – and the resulting displacement of longtime residents by the rising cost of housing – is worth a thoughtful analysis. Are we blaming parks for increasing property values, or might that be better explained as the result of the state of the housing market and public policy?  Continue reading

Parks: One of the Most Important Ingredients of a Successful City

(Republished from NextCity)

An audience member at the Philly Parks Future Forum last week called the panelists assembled a “dream team.” The experts represented parks agencies from Seattle, New York, Minneapolis, San Francisco and Chicago. Presented by the City Parks Alliance, the forum wasn’t so much an event to unravel the issues that Philly parks will face specifically, but to discuss how city parks are one of the greatest assets to our country and how they are progressing nationally. Philadelphia Daily News writer Sandra Shea moderated the panel of parks and recreation officials, who shared what’s been working in their necks of the woods. Here are five important takeaways from the Forum.

1. Seattle’s New Park District Was 20 Years in the Making
Proposition 1, which called for the creation of a Seattle Park District, passed with 53 percent of the vote in August. Prop 1 did away with the need to return to voters to secure funding, permanently backing parks through property taxes. (This new source of revenue will be in addition to the $89.5 million that Seattle already receives each year from the city’s general fund.)

What turned the tide? Seattle Parks and Recreation Acting Superintendent Christopher Williams said it was Mayor Ed Murray’s outspokenness on the issue. Since city officials at Parks and Recreation don’t run for their jobs, they don’t campaign on their stances. Williams said having a public face mattered. “I can’t say enough about advocacy,” he stated.

Williams said the Seattle department knows it still answers to voters, and because of that responsibility, he suggested, parks departments everywhere should be using a strong performance management model, relying on spreadsheets and data and report cards to track success.

2. 96 Percent of San Franciscans Can Walk From Their Homes to a Park in 10 Minutes or Less
According to The Trust for Public Land, close to 10 million Americans live within a 10-minute walk to a park. According to San Francisco Recreation and Park General Manager Phil Ginsburg, some 800,000 of them live in San Francisco. Ginsburg got more than a few laughs from the Forum audience when he pointed out that many of those park visitors have four legs: San Francisco’s a city of 80,000 children … and 150,000 dogs.

Of course, just having abundant park space isn’t enough. Ginsburg pointed out that as San Francisco’s population continues to grow, his department is focused on modernizing one of the oldest park systems in the U.S. by acquiring more land to create new parks. He pointed out that prioritizing long-term capital planning (thanks to former Mayor Gavin Newsom and current Mayor Ed Lee) is making that expansion possible. Ginsburg emphasized that investing in children — in their health and public safety — with parks improvements was better than paying on the “back end in emergency rooms.”  Continue reading