Cleveland Ranks 35th In Park System Rankings

Cleveland - Cleveland ranked 35th on The Trust for Public Land’s ParkScore Index for 2019, improving two spots over last year. The city’s ParkScore was helped by strong marks for park access and park amenities. Cleveland tied as the nation’s ParkScore leader for providing access to splashpads and water play infrastructure (with Boston).

Atop the ParkScore rankings, Washington, DC, placed first, climbing ahead of Saint Paul and three-time defending champion Minneapolis. Nationally, the ParkScore index reported that 72% of residents in the 100 largest U.S. cities live within a 10-minute walk of a park, up from 70% 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.


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, “splashpads” and other water play structures, recreation and senior centers, and restrooms.

Cleveland ranked highly for park amenities, leading the nation with 10.5 water features per 100,000 residents (tied with Boston). The national ParkScore average is 1.2 splashpads per 100,000. Cleveland also scored well on the park access rating factor. According to ParkScore, an impressive 82% of Cleveland residents live within a 10-minute walk of a park, above the national ParkScore average of 72%. However, Cleveland’s ranking was hurt by its relatively small median park size (3.0 acres vs. the national ParkScore median of 5.0) and because the city reserves only 7% of city land for parks, compared to the national average of 9.4%.


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. 

“As few as 8,300 new parks in places where they are needed most would close the gap in park access in our 100 largest cities. At current rates of investment in park creation, it will take more than 50 years to build enough new parks to fill this gap,” says Breece Robertson, Chief Research and Innovation Officer at The Trust for Public Land. “But because we now know exactly where to site the parks, we know the first 1,500 could solve the problem for nearly 5 million people. That shows us the way forward, and we owe it to our children to rise to the challenge.”

“Solving the problem of park access is exactly why The Trust for Public Land launched the 10-Minute Walk Mayor’s campaign,” says Adrian Benepe, Director of National Programs at The Trust for Public Land. “Decision-makers at every level must rally everyday Americans behind the urgent need for park equity in our communities.”

In an endorsement of the 10-minute walk goal, more than 250 mayors have joined the 10-Minute Walk Mayor’s Campaign, pledging to adopt long-term, system-wide strategies to ensure every resident has a quality park close to home.

Through voter-approved initiatives like Great Outdoors Colorado and California’s Proposition 68, citizens are generating new sources of public funding at the state level to accelerate the pace of improvement for parks and open space in their communities. At the federal level, leaders are considering infrastructure investments in the trillions—a percentage of which could be spent on improving park equity.

“These recent developments demonstrate that the change we need is possible. It is happening now. Civic leaders, elected officials, experts, and activists are coming together behind the power of parks to benefit health, climate, and communities,” adds Diane Regas.


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

Rank   City                         ParkScore (Max: 100)

1.       Washington, DC       83.8

2.     Saint Paul, MN        83.2

3.       Minneapolis, MN     81.8

4.       Arlington, VA           81.3

5.     Portland, OR              79.7

6.       Irvine, CA                 79.2

7.      San Francisco, CA     79.0

8.      Cincinnati, OH         78.3

9.      New York, NY         76.0

10.    Chicago, IL               75.4

The lowest-ranking park systems are:

90.       Lubbock, TX          33.2

91.      Baton Rouge, LA    33.0

92.      Fresno, CA             31.3

93.     Hialeah, FL             31.1

94.      Laredo, TX            30.1

95.       Mesa, AZ                29.5

96.       Charlotte, NC         28.9

97.       Oklahoma City        28.6

Fort Wayne and Indianapolis declined to participate in ParkScore 2019 and were not ranked. Gilbert, AZ, were not ranked because the necessary data was unavailable

The ParkScore Index uses advanced GIS (Geographic Information Systems) computer mapping technology to create digital maps evaluating park accessibility. Instead of measuring distance to a local park, the rating system’s GIS technology considers the location of park entrances and physical obstacles to access. For example, if residents are separated from a nearby park by a major highway, the ParkScore Index does not count the park as accessible to those residents, unless there is a bridge, underpass, or easy access point across the highway. The Trust for Public Land collaborated with GIS industry leader Esri on GIS design and implementation.

Photo by: Ken Robinson / WTAM 1100

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