• Who We Are

    City Parks Blog is a joint effort of the Center for City Park Excellence at the Trust for Public Land and the City Parks Alliance to chronicle the news and issues of the urban park movement. Read more about us.
  • Urban Park Issues

  • Enter your email address to receive notifications of new City Parks Blog posts by email.

  • Archives

  • Urban Green Cover Ad

City park facts: Cleveland Parks has six top ten rankings in 2017

Cleveland Parks has six 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.

Cleveland is one the 100 largest US cities and ranked number 43 overall (tied with Boise, Colorado Springs, and Norfolk) in the 2016 edition of Parkscore.  But, more exciting is its individual rankings in six out of the twenty categories that we are tracking:

  • #6 -6.0 Basketball hoops per 10,0000 residents (230)
  • #6 -3.7 Ball Diamonds per 10,000 residents (142)
  • #9 ( tie) – 1.3 Beaches per 100,000 residents (5)
  • #1 – 10.9 Swimming pools per 100,000 residents (42)
  • #4 – 7.0 Splash pads per 100,000 residents (27)
  • #7 – 54.4 restrooms per 100,000 residents (209)

Two organizations manage the parks and public spaces in and around the city of Cleveland. The city of Cleveland has both park and recreation divisions within its Department of Public Works. Cleveland Metroparks is a separate organization that owns and manages parks and open space in the greater Cleveland Metro area.

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.


How Cleveland is Paying For Water-Smart Parks

The following is an excerpt from City Parks, Clean Water, a report by the Trust for Public Land’s Center for City Park Excellence that examines the role of urban parks in managing stormwater. This is the seventeenth installment in a series of 19 posts.

Installing natural stormwater controls within a park is not inexpensive and is usually not a quick process. But the relevant comparison of costs and impacts must be made against any typical park improvement project, as well as against traditional gray approaches, which are usually much more expensive and take far longer. How much a water-smart park costs and how long it takes to build depends on innumerable factors of geography, geology, weather, bureaucratic rules and, often, city and neighborhood politics. Nothing about urban water management is easy, but the evidence shows that the natural approach is more economical.

A survey of 20 stormwater park projects in 13 states, carried out by The Trust for Public Land, illustrates the variety of forms a water management project can take, as well as the relative cost effectiveness of green versus gray infrastructure. The parks ranged in size from half an acre to more than 300 acres, with stormwater management features ranging from only a small corner of some facilities to the whole park in others. The median size of the parks is 8 acres, and the median size of the stormwater portion is 2.5 acres. The following charts compare some of the costs of traditional gray infrastructure vs. green infrastructure in selected projects.

CSO cost

(The Trust for Public Land)

Continue reading

Voters in Three Cities Approve Spending for Parks

Voters in Newark, Cleveland and Grand Rapids have overwhelmingly approved local taxes to pay for better parks in their cities, The Trust for Public Land announced.

On November 5th:

  • Newark, N.J., voters gave 84% approval to create the Newark Open Space & Recreation Trust Fund, which would receive about $1.1 million a year to maintain city parks and provide new parks. The money would come from a tax of one penny per $100 of real property value.
  • In Cuyahoga County, Ohio, voters in Cleveland and nearby communities gave 70% passage to a measure that increases the local levy used to pay for a variety of parks in the county. The measure will bring in about $75 million a year over the next 20 years.
  • In Michigan, Grand Rapids voters passed by a 60–40 margin a park levy which will create $28 million over the next seven years.

The three successful city measures were among 15 local conservation spending proposals on the ballot. Twelve of the 15 passed, and will generate $1.8 billion for local conservation over the next two decades. The only major loss came in Boise, Idaho, where voters gave 62–38% support for a conservation tax, but that figure fell just short of the 2/3 approval required.
Continue reading

Turning Redfields to Greenfields in Philadelphia and Beyond

This post is a follow-up to our previous entry about Philadelphia’s plan to turn 500 acres of underused land into city parks by 2015.

When a single good-sized maple tree can add over $7,000 to a home’s sale value, according to a study in Portland, Oregon, it’s not difficult to imagine the effect of turning large swaths of derelict urban land into parks, gardens, and playgrounds. Private properties in financial distress, or “redfields,” are the focus of a number of cities, such as Philadelphia, that are developing creative re-utilization strategies for underused land.

Increased property values are expected to be one of the most profound impacts of the Green 2015 initiative; the report states that vacant properties can reduce adjacent home values by 6-20%, adding up to a total of $3.6 billion in lost household wealth across the city.

Parks can significantly increase nearby property values, as evidenced in the real estate that surrounds Rittenhouse Square in Philadelphia.

Well-tended parks could not only eliminate this negative effect, but also significantly improve the value of nearby residences. The Center for City Park Excellence has calculated that Philadelphia’s 10,000 acre park system is responsible for adding $220 million to the assessed value of nearby homes. Though the study only included parks larger than one acre, it is known that even small green spaces can influence property values. 

As part of its Green City Blue Lake initiative, Cleveland began the ReImagining a Greater Cleveland program in 2008, which is focused largely on promoting urban agriculture and green infrastructure. Cleveland has 20,000 vacant lots, 5,000 of which are held in a land bank. With funds from the Surdna Foundation, Neighborhood Progress, Inc., and Cleveland’s Neighborhood Stabilization Program, 56 community groups have started pilot projects which the city will examine to develop best practices moving forwards.

Residents of Baltimore have undertaken many self-motivated conversions of city-owned vacant land.  Community gardens, pocket parks, and horseshoe courts, often marked with handmade signs, have sprouted up in unused lots. When the city recently announced efforts to accelerate the sale of 14,000 of its vacant lots, a group called Baltimore Green Space responded by enlisting residents to help catalog the vacant properties which they had converted, which the city plans to use to help preserve up to 300 green spaces.

Miami-Dade County’s redfields to greenfields plan, centered on the creation of transit-oriented parks alongside the Metrorail line and Miami River greenways, emphasizes job creation as a primary benefit. The construction industry (hit hard by the same recession responsible for the glut of abandoned properties in the region) could stand to gain over 14,000 jobs per year over five years, reports the City Parks Alliance.

The process of cleaning up vacant sites can be green and economical, too. The Dirt (ASLA blog) featured an article recently detailing how abandoned brownfield sites can be cleaned up with a process called phytoremediation, in which plants absorb toxins into their tissue. Some plants eliminate the toxins entirely, while others have to be removed as hazardous waste. In any case, the process, used by Cleveland in some of its pilot projects, can be 90% cheaper than traditional methods while providing the added bonus of improved air quality and stormwater retention.

Cities pursuing redfield to greenfield strategies are varied in terms of geography and economic history, but their ethos, summed up nicely by ReImagining a Greater Cleveland, is the same:

A city’s weakness is only as weak as their lack of ability to see potential in the opportunity any ‘crisis’ affords.

Community-Based Gardens (& Groups) Help Renew Cleveland

Stockyards, Cleveland: a new way to use tires in vacant lots.

We just read a nice story about residents and a community group working to revitalize the Stockyards neighborhood in Cleveland, which has recently had homes going for as low as $1,500, an increasing supply of empty parcels and no viable plans for redevelopment.

Writing in Communities and Banking (pdf) (the magazine of the Federal Reserve of Boston), Matt Martin and Zachariah Starnik of the Stockyard Redevelopment Organization describe a number of initiatives to stop the downward spiral, from gardens/plantings on city Land Bank parcels with grants and other financial assistance; a collaborative effort between Stockyard and the Ohio State University extension to conduct phyto-remediation (using different types of plant life to cleanse soil) on lots with soil contamination; and a plan that calls for a neglected urban street and adjacent vacant parcels to be developed into a viable green space and corridor. (Stockyard developed a plan that shaped these efforts earlier.)

Most of the article, however, is about a group of citizens in the 48th Street Block Club that led the creation of several gardens on private lots. First, the group pressured the city to tear down abandoned and troublesome buildings and then, without city approval or denial, it started planting gardens on the properties, giving the empty areas an aesthetic turnaround and growing some food for locals in the process. As the article notes:

Revitalization of the lots has improved their appearance and removed a number of former safety risks. The lots have become not only a valuable food resource but also a wellspring of pride. They have united the neighborhood in a single cause, becoming a visible symbol of the neighborhood’s collective power. “We’ve done a lot with a little,” says one club member…….

While no one would claim that merely planting gardens will save a neighborhood, in an area hit by multiple foreclosures every little bit helps. As Art Ledger says, “It’s progress. You’re going to have things that go backwards, too. But we’re ready.”

Just stopping the downward spiral (or “cumulative causation” in economic terms) is in itself a start on the path to revitalization. It is not at all impossible that demand may increase again in this centrally located, historic and “old urbanist” neighborhood in a metro area of 2.3 million people.