ParkScore Rankings Name Washington D.C. Nation’s Best
Friday, May 26, 2023
The nonprofit Trust for Public Land has published its annual ParkScore rankings, and some area cities are high on the list.
Washington, D.C., took the top spot for the third year in a row, ranked as the nation's best big-city park system, with 24% of the District's land devoted to parks. The rankings are based on five metrics including park access, which calculates the percentage of residents living within a 10-minute walk of a park as well as park equity, which compares access in communities of color to white communities and low versus high income levels. Other metrics include park acreage, investment and amenities.
Baltimore moved up one spot this year to 29th in the nation, with 87% of residents living within a 10-minute walk of a park, much higher than the national average of 55%.
The Trust for Public Land also released a report on the power of parks to promote public health. In addition to offering people space for physical activity, contact with nature and social connectedness, Dr. Howard Frumkin, senior vice president and director for the trust's Land and People Lab, said parks offer additional benefits in urban settings.
"Lowering the temperature in the neighborhood, which helps people withstand heat waves. Lowering noise levels, noise being a very common urban stressor. Providing climate resilience through managing stormwater," he said. "So lots of pathways through which parks advance public health."
Rounding out the top five cities, Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota, ranked second and third, followed by Irvine, California, and nearby Arlington, Virginia.
In many places, researchers found, park planning and programs are catering to underserved groups or people needing improved accessibility. Linda Hwang, senior director for strategy and innovation at the Land and People Lab, said needs for innovation and creativity vary among different park agencies.
"We're seeing people with different types of mobility issues, can we really be thinking about all-inclusive design, for example, and even just trying to really cater to some of the emerging mental-health challenges," she said. "So that custom programming, custom design is something that we didn't expect to find. And so it's just been a really nice surprise for us to see that."
The report found that among some large cities including New York and Chicago, investments in parks have declined, but Hwang said the increased park investment seen in some mid-sized cities is a positive sign.
"I think one of the significant challenges is around investments, so that is one of the categories that we track in the park score index," she said. "And when we look across the trends across the 100 largest cities, we are happy that, in general, we see some rebounding from the COVID era cuts that we saw across city agencies. "
The report calculated Baltimore's park spending to be above average at $142 per capita.
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