Which U.S. city has the best park system?
If you’re a lover of outdoor urban activity, might we suggest a move to Minneapolis? Not only does the burg have a bike culture to rival Portland’s, it boasts the best park system of any major U.S. city, according to rankings released Wednesday by the Trust for Public Land in its second-annual ParkScore Index.
Minneapolis didn’t appear on last year’s inaugural ParkScore list, which ranked only the 40 largest U.S. cities (Minneapolis comes in at No. 48). But this year, TPL looked at 50 cities, and Minneapolis took top honors, bumping San Francisco, last year’s winner, to third place. New York City moved up from third to second.
Here’s the top 10:
- New York City
- Sacramento & San Francisco & Boston (a three-way tie)
- Washington, D.C.
- Portland, Ore.
- Virginia Beach
- San Diego
Most of the cities in the Top 10 are either older Eastern towns shaped by Frederick Law Olmsted’s legacy of urban design (such as New York and Boston) or newer Western ones with urban wilderness and open space to spare (Portland, San Diego, Seattle).
In calculating the rankings, ParkScore gives equal weight to three main categories: acreage (median park size and park land as a percentage of overall city area), services and investment (park spending per capita and playgrounds per 10,000 residents), and access (how many people live within a 10-minute walk of a park). Fresno, Calif., brought up the rear for the second year in a row. In that city, park land constitutes only 2 percent of the city area — compared to 15 percent in Minneapolis — and roughly half of every income and age group lacks easy access to a park. But Fresno’s not even the worst city in terms of access — that honor goes to Charlotte, N.C., where less than 30 percent of the population lives within a 10-minute walk of a park.
New York is by far the biggest city in the top 10. L.A. sits all the way down at No. 34; Chicago came in No. 16. Virginia Beach is the only Southern city in the Top 10; Midwestern and Western cities are more evenly distributed. You can compare all the cities’ scores in each main category here; click on a city for a breakdown of its rankings.
In general, cities known for their car-loving culture (L.A., Atlanta, basically every city in Texas) don’t appear to give much love to parks.
ParkScore rankings aren’t meant just to celebrate or shame certain cities; TPL says its website should serve as “a roadmap to guide park improvement efforts.” The detailed analysis shows city leaders which aspects of their park system deserve the most focus. Let’s hope, for the sake of the people in Fresno, that they’re paying attention.