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

Feature Story

June 2019

Washington, D.C., Unseats Minneapolis as Best City Park System

By Chandler Garland

The Trust for Public Land's 2019 ParkScore index has named Washington, D.C., as the Best City Park System in the United States. This is a leap for the city, which barely outranked Arlington, Va., for third place in the 2018 index. D.C. also unseated the three-year reigning ParkScore champion, Minneapolis, which fell to third place. St. Paul, Minn., maintained its rank of second place.

ParkScore rankings are based equally on four factors:

  1. Park access, which measures the percentage of residents living within a 10-minute walk of a park.
  2. Park acreage, which is based on a city's median park size and the percentage of city area dedicated to parks.
  3. Park investment, which measures park spending per resident.
  4. Park amenities, which counts the availability of six popular park features: basketball hoops, off-leash dog parks, playgrounds, splash pads and other water play structures, recreation and senior centers, and restrooms.

ParkScore champion Washington scored well on all ParkScore rating factors. In Washington, 98 percent of residents live within a 10-minute walk of a park, and 21 percent of city area is reserved for parks. The city's small median park size (1.4 acres) trailed second-place finisher Saint Paul (3.2 acres) and third-place Minneapolis (5.7 acres), but the city's improvements to park amenities pulled Washington slightly ahead of the Twin Cities to earn the top spot in the rankings.

"D.C. is truly a city of parks that serve as hubs of activity and beauty for neighborhoods and provide substantial social, economic and health benefits to our residents," said Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser. "We've invested more than $200 million to ensure all residents have access to playgrounds, nature trails and other public parks that have made D.C.'s park system the envy of cities across the nation."

The ParkScore index also reports that 72 percent of residents in the 100 largest U.S. cities live within a 10-minute walk of a park, up from 70 percent last year. Today, there are 23,727 parks in the 100 largest U.S. cities, yet 11.2 million people in those cities do not have a park within a 10-minute walk of home, according to The Trust for Public Land.

According to The Trust for Public Land, the 10 highest ranking park systems in the United States are:

  1. Washington, D.C. (83.8)
  2. Saint Paul, Minn. (83.2)
  3. Minneapolis (81.8)
  4. Arlington, Va. (81.3)
  5. Portland, Ore. (79.7)
  6. Irvine, Calif. (79.2)
  7. San Francisco (79)
  8. Cincinnati (78.3)
  9. New York (76)
  10. Chicago (75.4)

Municipal leaders use ParkScore information to guide park improvement efforts, studying park access on a block-by-block basis and pinpointing the areas where new parks are needed most. The ParkScore website,, is free and available to the public, empowering residents to hold their elected leaders accountable for achieving equitable access to quality parks for all.

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