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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.

City park facts: Seattle has five top ten rankings in 2017

The Seattle Park Parks and Recreation Department has five 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.

Seattle is one the 100 largest US cities and ranked number 13 overall in the 2016 edition of Parkscore.  But, more exciting is its individual rankings in five out of the twenty categories that we are tracking:

  • #8 (tie) – 93% of population within a 10-minute walk to a park
  • #4 in spending per resident – $252 total, $204 operating, $47 capital (all per resident)
  • #9-two way tie – 1.3 Beaches per 100,000 residents (9)
  • #5 – 1.7 Community Garden Plots per 1,000 residents (1113)
  • #6 (tie) – 1.6 skateboard parks per 100,000 residents (11)

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.

The Trust for Public Land creates parks and protects land for people, ensuring healthy, livable communities for generations to come.  Millions of people live near 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 www.tpl.org.

Community Gardens


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

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

Seattle Parks and the Downtown Seattle Association: A Smart Marriage (Part 3 of 3)

This year the City Parks Alliance was one of the hosts to the International Downtown Association’s World Congress in New York.  The theme, “People/Places/Partnerships,” focused on how leaders across the globe are transforming buildings, places and streets through design, redevelopment, place management and distinctive programming.  City Parks Alliance added a focus on downtown parks by organizing tours.

I’ve talked about downtown associations before – and business improvement districts (BIDs) – and their increasing willingness to take on parks to help enliven and beautify downtowns.  BIDs exist in almost every one of the top 50 largest cities in the United States. BIDs, mostly financed by taxes on property owners in a given district, are increasingly including public spaces and parks in their mission.

Downtown Seattle Association (DSA) is no different.  It has been in existence since 1953 and in the late 1990s, the leadership formed a BID to help them carry out their mission.  With six hundred residential and business members they include parks in their mission.  “We care about the parks because our policy and advocacy agenda focuses on the health and vitality of public spaces – parks, plazas and sidewalks,” says Jon Scholes, DSA’s Vice President for Advocacy and Economic Development. Continue reading