TPL Ranks 60 Largest Cities' Parks
And the top city parks system is… Minneapolis!
Minneapolis took top honors on The Trust for Public Land's third annual ParkScore index, earning a perfect "5-park bench" rating from the nonprofit organization. Minneapolis remains the only city park system to earn the coveted "5 bench" score. New York, Boston, Portland and San Francisco rounded out the top five.
This year, Denver made the biggest upward move in ParkScore rating history, climbing 10 places to tie for seventh. For 2014, ParkScore counted the city's "Learning Landscapes" school playgrounds as park space, because they are open for public use in evenings and on weekends when school is not in session. These shared-use arrangements are a relatively easy way for cities to increase park and playground access, especially in fully developed urban areas.
Sacramento was the only city to lose its top-five ranking in 2014, as strong population growth strained its park system and limited access to popular playgrounds. The California capital city earned four park benches, dropping to seventh place in 2014, compared to third last year. Fresno repeated as ParkScore's last-place finisher, earning one park bench.
This year, ParkScore expanded to the 60 largest cities in the United States, up from 50 in 2013. Among the 10 new ParkScore entrants, Aurora, Colo., ranked best, earning four park benches and a 10th place tie with Virginia Beach. New Orleans earned 3.5 park benches, tying for 18th position—the second highest score among new ParkScore cities.
"You can't have a great city without great parks," said Adrian Benepe, senior vice president and director of City Park Development for TPL. "Parks provide places for children and adults to be physically active, and they serve as community meeting places where friendships are built and a sense of community is strengthened."
ParkScore ratings are based equally on three factors: park access, which measures the percentage of residents living within a 10-minute walk of a park (approximately ½ mile); park size, which is based on a city's median park size and the percentage of total city area dedicated to parks; and services and investment, which combines the number of playgrounds per 10,000 city residents and per capita park spending.
Minneapolis scored strongly on all ParkScore rating factors. With 94 percent of residents living within a 10-minute walk of a park, the city received especially high marks for park access. The city's strong parks budget also boosted its ParkScore rating. Second-place finisher New York fared even better on park access, with 97 percent of residents living within a 10-minute walk of a park. However, New York was hurt by its low median park size—just 1.1 acres compared to Minneapolis' 7.1-acre median.
In addition to the at-a-glance park bench summary rating, ParkScore features an in-depth website that local leaders can use as a roadmap to guide park improvement efforts.
"This year's ParkScore results show that even outstanding park systems must improve to stay on top. When population grows, more parks and playgrounds are needed, but when city leaders get creative, they can meet the increased demand," said Peter Harnik, director of the TPL's Center for City Park Excellence.
According to TPL, the 10 highest-ranked city park systems in the United States are: Minneapolis (5 park benches); New York (4.5 park benches); Boston; Portland; and San Francisco (tied with 4 park benches); Washington D.C. (4 park benches); Denver and Sacramento (tied, with 4 park benches); San Diego (4 park benches): and Virginia Beach and Aurora, Colo. (tied with 4 park benches).