Recreation Management Rec Report - The Newsletter for Recreation, Sports & Fitness Facility Managers

Feature Story

June 2016

New Report Breaks Down the Data on City Parks

By Dave Ramont

The Trust for Public Land (TPL) is a nonprofit working to protect land and create close-to-home parks, protecting more than 3.3 million acres and completing more than 5,400 park and conservation projects nationally since 1972. And, while they do conserve wilderness areas, they particularly work in and near cities, where 80 percent of Americans live.

Recently, TPL's Center for City Park Excellence released the 2016 City Park Facts report, the nation's most complete compilation of data about parks in the nation's 100 largest cities. The report includes breakdowns of spending on public parks and recreation, acreage, number of park units, parkland by city and agency, comparison of designed versus natural parkland, data on specific recreational facilities, and much more.

Nette Compton, senior director of City Park Development at TPL, explained that when they consider public space in cities, they're dedicated to the mindset that close-to-home parks are a crucial part of urban infrastructure. "We're focused on the idea of a 10-minute walk to the park," she said. To that end, the City Park Facts report takes the 75 largest cities and discloses the percentage of city population with walkable park access (ability to reach a publicly owned park within a half-mile walk). San Francisco tops the list at 99 percent, followed by Boston at 98 percent, and Washington, D.C., and New York at 97 percent. Lowest percentages go to Charlotte, N.C., at 27 percent, and Indianapolis, Louisville, Ky., and Jacksonville, Fla., at 33 percent.

When it comes to spending on parks and recreation, Seattle leads the pack. In 2015, Seattle's total spending per resident (including both operating and capital spending) was $281, followed by San Francisco at $241 and Minneapolis at $222. The lowest-funded departments were in Detroit, Stockton, Calif., and Newark.

They love their baseball in Minnesota, where St. Paul and Minneapolis claimed the top two spots in number of ball diamonds per resident, followed by Pittsburgh.

Your pooch may be happy to learn that off-leash dog parks continued to spread, growing by 4 percent in 2015 and 89 percent since 2007. Henderson, Nev., had 5.4 dog parks per 100,000 residents, followed by Portland, Ore., and Norfolk, Va.

Baton Rouge, La., led the way in number of recreation and senior centers with 2.9 per 20,000 residents, followed by Minneapolis and Cincinnati.

Veggies are king in Oregon, where Portland had the most community garden plots at 35.1 per 10,000 residents, followed by Washington, D.C., and Madison, Wis.

Look for tennis prodigies in Virginia, with Richmond and Norfolk boasting the most tennis courts per resident.

Other stats in the report reveal that Madison, Wis., had the most playgrounds and basketball hoops per resident, Chula Vista, Calif. the most skateparks, Tulsa, Okla., the most disc golf courses, and Cleveland, Ohio, topped the swimming pool list.

Where's the oldest park? It's Boston Common, created in 1634, while Military Park in Newark, N.J., has existed since 1667.

And New York's 843-acre Central Park runs away with the "most visited" distinction, hosting 42 million visitors in 2015.

For the full 2016 City Park Facts report, visit

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