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What Are The Best City Park Systems?

On May 3rd, The Trust for Public Land (TPS) released its annual ParkScore rankings of parks in the 100 most populous cities, based on five factors: Equity, Access, Acreage, Investment and Amenities.

The five cities that scored highest in this ranking were Washington D.C.; St. Paul, Minnesota; Arlington, Virginia; Cincinnati, Ohio and Minneapolis, Minnesota.

"Washington, DC, was rated the best big city park system in the country for the second consecutive year," according to TPS. "The city scored well on all ParkScore rating factors. Twenty-four percent of land in the District of Columbia is reserved for parks, among the highest in the United States.

"The District also outperformed on ParkScore’s park access and park equity metrics. Washington, DC, neighborhoods where a majority of residents identify as Black, Latino, Indigenous and Native American, or Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders are equally likely to live within a 10-minute walk of a park as neighborhoods where a majority of residents are white. Park space per capita is also distributed nearly equally in Washington, DC."

That's the good news. But for many of the cities examined by TPL, equity is an issue for parks. In fact, "neighborhoods where most residents identify as people of color have access to an average of 43 percent less park space than predominately white neighborhoods," reported TPL.

We grew particularly interested in city parks when we wrote a column for Route Fifty a little over a year ago about the budgetary woes of the nation’s parks, in which we said that “many have been grappling with sometimes extreme budgetary problems.”

Yet, despite the potential for helping society in a number of ways, including combatting climate change (see our next B&G Report) the Trust wrote that “Park spending was virtually unchanged among ParkScore cities this year and investment remains insufficient to maintain existing parks or meaningfully increase park access.

“In response to city funding crises during the COVID pandemic, many park systems stretched their budgets by deferring regular maintenance and leaving damaged park infrastructure in place, rather than providing needed replacements. The 46 ParkScore cities that shared detailed budget information with Trust for Public Land accumulated an estimated $8.5 billion in deferred maintenance costs – about double their total annual spending.”


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