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City Park Facts: Cincinnati has the most top ten rankings

Cincinnati Parks has twelve top ten rankings in the 2017 edition of City Park Facts

The Trust for Public Land’s Center for City Park Excellence works to make cities more successful through the renewal and creation of parks for their social, ecological, and economic benefits to residents and visitors alike. To achieve this mission, we believe that residents, advocates, park professionals, planners, members of the media, decision-makers, and all those who love parks need solid data that elucidates the realities of urban park and recreation systems. Data is knowledge, and knowledge is power.

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Cincinnati is one the 100 largest US cities and ranked number 10 overall (tied with Madison, WI) in the 2016 edition of Parkscore.  But what is even more exciting is its individual rankings in twelve out of the nineteen categories that we are tracking:

  • #3 (tie) – 8.9 parks per 10,000 residents
  • #2 – 5.0 Playgrounds per 10,000 residents
  • #4 – 2.2 Recreation/Senior Centers per 20,000 residents (34)
  • #4 – 3.9 Ball Diamonds per 10,000 residents (119)
  • #7 (3 way tie) – 1.0 Disc Golf courses per 100,000 residents (3)
  • #1 – 2.0 Nature centers per 100,000 residents (6)
  • #9 (tie) – 0.7 Pickleball courts per 20,000 residents (10)
  • #2 – 7.9 Swimming pools per 100,000 residents (24)
  • #2 – 17.4 Volleyball nets per 100,000 residents (53)
  • #6 – 4.6 Splash pads per 100,000 residents (14)
  • #4 – 62.7 restrooms per 100,000 residents (191)
  • #1 – 2.0 golf courses per 100,000 residents (6)

City Park Facts is a collaboration between the many city, county, state and nonprofit parks agencies and conservancies that work with us to submit their data and we appreciate their continued help and involvement. The staff of the Center for City Park Excellence works to present this information in a thorough yet easy-to-use format, and your feedback is important for future editions. You can contact 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

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Infographic from City Park Facts

Benches Can Pay Their Way

This article has been adapted from the September 2016 issue of Parks & Recreation Magazine, the official publication of the National Recreation and Park Association. Through its pursuit of key issues, trends, and personalities, the magazine advances American parks, recreation, and conservation efforts. You can read the full-length article here.

This is the third and final installment in a series on park benches. Read the previous two posts here and here.

Benches are some of the cheapest park furnishings or landscaping items (even cheaper than trees), but the cost of purchase, installation and maintenance still adds up. Steve Schuckman, superintendent of planning, design, and facilities with the Cincinnati Park Board, says that buying and installing a practical, aesthetically pleasing, and durable bench costs between $1,500 and $2,000. In Kansas City the standard design comes to about $900. The 2002 master plan for Pittsburgh’s Allegheny Commons put the cost of modest benches at $1,200 each.

One way to cover expenses is through an adopt-a-bench program. Flourishing in many cities across the U.S., sponsorships take the shape of a small memorial plaque in return for the purchase, installation, and maintenance of a bench. (Many park agencies or conservancies stipulate that the memorial lasts for either the lifetime of the bench or for a certain number of years, whichever ends first). The cost varies by city and by park, but is generally around $2,000. In Austin, eleven of the city’s parks have already reached their bench donation limit. In New York’s Central Park, the Central Park Conservancy’s program (at $10,000 per bench) has yielded benefactors for over 4,200 of the park’s more than 9,000 benches. Kate O’Brien, development associate for the Broadway Mall Association, calls the Mall’s bench sponsorship program “a really good source of revenue.” Of the 340 benches from 70th Street to 168th Street, 39 are adopted.

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A plaque on a bench in Central Park. Photo credit: Flickr user gigi_nyc

Because of the popularity, some programs have had to institute rules. The Pittsburgh Park Conservancy gives wording guidelines, has a character count, and does not allow logos. “This program is a nice way to honor loved ones,” says the conservancy’s Susan Rademacher, “but if we have too many memorial benches, it may detract from the feeling that the park is a common space meant for everyone.”

For O’Brien, seeking bench sponsorships is a joy of her job. She says, “Donors always have a great story about their connection to the park. Something like, ‘I’ve lived here for 40 years and always drink my coffee on this bench.’” Benches often have an association with an important moment or a special person. There are plaques commemorating births, deaths, marriages, and everything in between, including pets. Beyond helping to fund conservancies or park maintenance, bench sponsorship programs allow people to interact with and form a special, and tangible, connection to a certain park.

As this series of posts has illustrated, benches can be both a joy and a bane for park-goers and parks departments. But it does seem to be clear that when a bench is removed, its park loses more than just a piece of furniture. Maybe Adrian Benepe, senior vice president of The Trust for Public Land and former commissioner of parks for New York City, is correct when he says, “It’s like everything else — you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone.” Or maybe it’s more alarming, as put by Tampa Parks Director Greg Bayor: “If you start removing benches then you’re on the way to removing everything else too.”

June’s Frontline Park

Each month, City Parks Alliance recognizes a “Frontline Park” to promote and highlight inspiring examples of urban park excellence, innovation, and stewardship across the country. The program also seeks to highlight examples of the challenges facing our cities’ parks as a result of shrinking municipal budgets, land use pressures, and urban neighborhood decay.

Cincinnati, OH

WashParkINT3Located in the historic Over-the-Rhine neighborhood, Washington Park has been through its share of changes since the city first acquired the land in 1855, which was then being used a cemetery.  After relocating the cemetery plots to a more suitable location, the city began park construction in the 1860s, adding features like footpaths, wading pools, bandstands, and other activities to draw visitors from the surrounding neighborhood.  The park and neighborhood entered a period of decline after the Great Depression and World War II, and by the end of the twentieth century, Over-the-Rhine had changed from a vibrant community to one of America’s poorest and most run-down neighborhoods.  Lack of investment led to the deterioration of many park features, and there was little inclination to make changes and improvements to the park.  With property values at rock bottom, developers purchased distressed properties and began the process of redeveloping Over-the-Rhine, which is believed to be the largest, most intact urban historic district in the United States.

WashPark1In 2006, the Cincinnati Park Board, partnering with the Cincinnati City Center Development Corporation (3CDC) launched the planning process for a $48 million renovation and expansion of Washington Park.  Directed by the Park Board and 3CDC, the project was based on a master plan created through an extensive public participation process.  It resulted in the transformation of Washington Park from 6 acres to an 8-acre urban sanctuary.  Enhancements were made to the historic southern section of the park, and new features were added within the 2 acre extension of the park to the north.  Improvements included a performance pavilion and a civic green of more than an acre over the top of an underground parking garage that serves residents, businesses, performance venues, and park visitors.  Numerous sustainable features were built into the park including green roofs, the city’s first “dry-wells,” which reduce the amount of stormwater runoff that infiltrates the aging sewer infrastructure, and the reuse of original stone walls and pillars.  Other attractions included an 18,000 square foot playground with climbing walls based on historic Cincinnati architecture, and a replica canal boat set in a water channel.  The park also features a large unique interactive fountain, a restored bandstand, a plaza facing the Music Hall, an enclosed dog park, and floral displays.

Reopened to the public in 2012, Washington Park has quickly become an anchor in Over-the-Rhine, and an integral part of the neighborhood’s remarkable transformation from urban cautionary tale to one of the best developments in the United States.  The park has spurred new economic development around it, and it now better serves its diverse community and a new population of visitors drawn to its extensive program of concerts, movies, educational programs and special events.

For more information on Washington Park, please visit:

Cincinnati Park Board

Cincinnati Center City Development Corporation

The “Frontline Parks” program is made possible with generous support from DuMor, Inc. and PlayCore.

Cincinnati Mayor Mark Mallory Discusses Downtown and New Riverfront Park

Smart Growth America recently completed video interviews with several mayors and other prominent elected officials nationwide, and will be releasing them over the next several months. The first is with Mayor Mark Mallory from Cincinnati — he speaks to the need to invest in downtowns and to make the right kinds of infrastructure investments to trigger job creation and community development.

Mayor Mallory discusses how the revised downtown will benefit from the new 45-acre John G. and Phyllis W. Smale Riverfront Park:

“We’re doing a lot of things in Cincinnati. In addition to building the streetcar, we are developing our riverfront with a project called The Banks. This is the space between our two stadiums. It’s going to be more than 300 apartments – this is just in the first phase – retailers, there’s a giant park that will be a part of it. This project will go in to its second phase in the next couple weeks actually, and before it’s over with we’ll probably spend a billion dollars on our riverfront.

Phases one and two of the Smale Riverfront Park are slated to open on May 15. The new park will feature fountains, walkways, gardens, event lawns, playgrounds and restaurants, including the Moerlein Lager House, which officially opened last month. There will also be restrooms, a visitor’s center and bike parking, for a membership fee. In addition to connecting to the bike trail, one of the more interesting features are bike runnels along the steps to the lower level, so bicycles don’t have to be carried up and down the stairs, but can be rolled along the side. This is a unique solution to a multi-level park that points to the investment and encouragement of alternative modes of transportation to reach a destination park.

Cincinnati Parks is overseeing the planning, development and construction of the park, and funding came primarily from the city of Cincinnati and the Smale family. Read more about the new park here and watch a video clip here.