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

Feature Story

September 2018

Cities Spend More on Public Parks in 2018

Newly released data from The Trust for Public Land shows that public spending on parks in the 100 largest U.S. cities increased by 6 percent in 2018, from $7.1 billion to $7.5 billion. Combined with $500 million from public/private park partnerships, total park spending reached $8 billion in this past fiscal year. The 2018 City Park Facts report also reveals an increased investment in certain park features over the past year, including a 22 percent increase in community gardens, a 69 percent increase in pickleball courts, and a 35 percent increase in splash pads. Still, there is significant work to be done to provide access to parks, as 30 percent of people do not live within a 10-minute walk of a park.

"Everyone deserves a great park within a 10-minute walk of home," said Diane Regas, president and CEO of The Trust for Public Land. "Sound research and data are necessary tools for increasing access to parks so that every person—regardless of their income, race or zip code—can experience the immense benefits that parks provide."

The Trust for Public Land is a leading national movement to ensure that everyone has access to a great park within a 10-minute walk of home. City Park Facts, published annually since 2010, is a tool for both park professionals and advocates alike. By tracking where park investment is occurring, the report empowers residents and park officials to advocate for resources and amenities to better serve their community. The data in City Park Facts supplements the TPL's annual ParkScore index, which ranks parks systems in the 100 largest U.S. cities.

As the report also shows, volunteers make a huge contribution to public parks, donating 16.9 million hours in 2018. Volunteers perform a wide variety of tasks, from assisting with recreation programs to coaching teams to weeding, planting and watering. The cities with the most park volunteer hours are Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, Jacksonville, and San Diego.

Splash pads—which are increasingly including water-saving features—are one of the fastest-growing amenities in the 100 largest U.S. cities, up 35 percent from 2017 to 1,797 in 2018. Cities with the most splash pads per capita are Louisville, Ky.; Cleveland, Ohio; Boston; New York; and Chicago.

Pickleball courts are another fast-growing amenity, with 708 courts in public parks, up 69 percent from 2017. The sport, played with inexpensive rackets and a "whiffle-like" ball, is popular with all ages, especially seniors. The cities with the most pickleball courts per capita are Seattle, St. Paul; Minn.; Madison, Wis.; Virginia Beach, Va.; and Omaha, Neb.

Community garden plots located in public parks number 29,251, up 22 percent from 2017, making them another of the fastest-growing park amenities. Top cities for community gardens per capita include St. Paul, Minn.; Portland, Ore.; Washington, D.C.; Madison, Wis.; and Louisville, Ky.

To view the full report, visit

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