Washington, D.C., has the best city park system in the United States, according to the Trust for Public Land’s eighth annual ParkScore index, which was released in May by the nonprofit organization. Saint Paul ranked second, and three-time defending champion Minneapolis dropped to third.
Thirteenth-ranked Boston joined seventh place San Francisco as the only ParkScore cities to ensure that 100 percent of residents live within a 10-minute walk of a park (approximately a half mile [0.8 km]). Philadelphia made a huge upward move, climbing 11 spots on the ranking list, mostly due to new investment in park space made possible through the Rebuild initiative.
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.
“Mayors and city park directors across the United States recognize that quality, close-to-home parks are essential to communities. Parks bring neighbors together and help cities fight climate change. Parks are proven to improve physical and mental health and get children and adults to put down their phones and enjoy the outdoors,” says Diane Regas, president and CEO of the Trust for Public Land.
In an endorsement of the 10-minute walk goal, more than 250 mayors from cities large and small have joined the 10-Minute Walk Mayor’s Campaign, pledging to adopt long-term, system-wide strategies to ensure that every resident has a high-quality park close to home.
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 [0.6 ha]) trailed second-place finisher Saint Paul (3.2 acres [1.3 ha]) and third-place Minneapolis (5.7 acres [2.3 ha]), 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 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.”
Boise, Idaho, defended its title as the best park system for dogs, with a nation-leading 5.7 dog parks per 100,000 residents. Norfolk, Virginia, received top marks for basketball hoops; Madison, Wisconsin, scored best for playgrounds; and Boston and Cleveland tied for “splash pads” and other water features.
The ParkScore index reported a “pickleball” breakout in 2019, as the number of Ping-Pong/tennis hybrid courts soared 38 percent over last year. Pickleball is popular among all ages and is especially beloved by seniors, because it offers a low-impact and fun opportunity for physical activity. ParkScore rankings also reported greater availability of playgrounds and basketball courts, as parks departments invested in new amenities and worked in partnership with local leaders to increase access to school facilities after hours and on weekends.
ParkScore rankings are based equally on four factors: park access, which measures the percentage of residents living within a 10-minute walk of a park; park acreage, which is based on a city’s median park size and the percentage of city area dedicated to parks; park investment, which measures park spending per resident; and 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.
Parks are essential to the physical, social, environmental, and economic health of people and communities. That’s why ULI is partnering with The Trust for Public Land (TPL) and the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA) on the 10-Minute Walk Campaign,