Minneapolis Edges out Saint Paul as Nation’s Best Park System, According to The Trust for Public Land’s 2016 ParkScore® Index

Twin Cities 1-2 Finish Breaks Historic Tie from 2015; 
Both Park Systems Earn Perfect “5-Bench” Rating

best park system in america graphic

Minneapolis – Minneapolis is the nation’s best park system, narrowly besting cross-town twin Saint Paul, according to The Trust for Public Land’s 2016 ParkScore Index, which was released today by the nonprofit organization. Saint Paul ranked second in the analysis of the 100 largest cities in the United States. Last year, the cities tied for first.

“Minneapolis and Saint Paul are extraordinary cities with extraordinary park systems—in some ways, it is unfortunate they couldn’t stay tied forever. This year’s ParkScore Index gave the slightest edge to Minneapolis, but no one can take anything away from the achievements of the great city of Saint Paul,” said Nettie Compton, Senior Director of ParkCentral & City Park Development for The Trust for Public Land.

ParkScores are based on three factors: Park Access, which measures the percentage of residents living within a 10-minute walk of a park (approximately ½-mile); Park Size, which is based on a city’s median park size and the percentage of total city area dedicated to parks; and Facilities and Investment, which combines park spending per resident with the availability of four popular park amenities: basketball hoops, off-leash dog parks, playgrounds, and recreation & senior centers.

Minneapolis scored above average on all ParkScore rating factors. According to The Trust for Public Land, 95% of Minneapolis residents live within a 10-minute walk of a park, and 14.9% of city area is reserved for parks. Second-place finisher Saint Paul slightly outscored Minneapolis for park access (96% within a 10-minute walk) but ceded the top spot to its neighbor due to its smaller median park size (3.7 acres vs. 6.5 acres). Minneapolis also outscored Saint Paul on dog parks per 100,000 residents and gained slightly from last year by more accurately reporting the number of basketball hoops in the city.

“Every American deserves to live within a 10-minute walk of a park, and ParkScore helps us measure which cities are meeting that mark,” said Will Rogers, President of the Trust for Public Land.

Nationally, returning ParkScore cities increased spending on parks by an average of $1 per person in 2016, according to the Trust for Public Land.

“Cities are investing in park systems and that’s showing up on the ParkScore index. It is great news for public health, the environment, and local economies,” said Adrian Benepe, Senior Vice President and Director of City Park Development for The Trust for Public Land. “Parks provide places for children and adults to get exercise, and they serve as community meeting places where friendships are built and a sense of community is strengthened,” he added.

“We’re honored by the top ranking, but not resting on our laurels. We are working continuously to improve our parks, with a focus on the most racially diverse and economically challenged areas of the city. During the last five years, we have invested significantly in parks throughout the city but especially in north and upper south Minneapolis with new community centers, athletic fields and the first natural swimming pool in North America. With the support of the city and the citizens of Minneapolis, we recently approved a monumental funding plan that will provide an additional $11 million annually into our neighborhood parks,” said Jayne Miller, Superintendent of the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board.

Minneapolis and Saint Paul weren’t the only cities making ParkScore news in 2016. Fresno, California, also marked an important achievement, climbing out of last position for the first time in ParkScore history. The Central California city was buoyed by the opening of several new playgrounds and a dog park.

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

1. Minneapolis 5.0 park benches
2. Saint Paul 5.0 park benches
3. Washington, DC 5.0 park benches
4. Arlington, VA 4.5 park benches DEBUT YEAR
5. San Francisco 4.5 park benches
6. Portland, OR 4.5 park benches
7. New York 4.5 park benches
8. Irvine 4.5 park benches DEBUT YEAR
9. Boston 4.5 park benches
10. Cincinnati (tie) 4.0 park benches
10. Madison, WI (tie) 4.0park benches DEBUT YEAR

The 10 lowest-ranking park systems are:

89. Jacksonville (tie) 1.5 park benches
89. Oklahoma City (tie) 1.5 park benches
91. Hialeah (tie) 1.5 park benches DEBUT YEAR
91. Mesa, AZ (tie) 1.5 park benches
93. Louisville (tie) 1.5 park benches
93. Winston-Salem (tie) 1.5 park benches DEBUT YEAR
95. Charlotte (tie) 1.0 park benches
95. Indianapolis (tie) 1.0 park benches
97. Fresno 1.0 park benches
98. Fort Wayne, IN 1.0 park benches DEBUT YEAR

Gilbert, AZ, and Laredo, TX were not ranked because they did not provide parks data to The Trust for Public Land.

ParkScore uses advanced GIS (geographic information system) computer mapping technology to create digital maps evaluating park accessibility, making it the most realistic assessment system available. Instead of simply measuring distance to a local park, ParkScore’s GIS technology takes into account the location of park entrances and physical obstacles to access. For example, if residents are separated from a nearby park by a major highway, ParkScore does not count the park as accessible to those residents (unless there is a bridge, underpass, or easy access point across the highway).

Also, ParkScore features an in-depth website that local leaders can use as a roadmap to guide park improvement efforts. The website, parkscore.tpl.org, provides extensive data and analysis that pinpoints the neighborhoods where parks are needed most critically. The website includes interactive maps of each ParkScore city that allow users to zoom in and study park access on a block-by-block basis. The website is free and open to the public.

For more information about ParkScore, visit parkscore.tpl.org and join the discussion on Twitter @TPL_org, #ParkScore.

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Trust for Public Land logoAbout The Trust for Public Land

The Trust for Public Land creates parks and protects land for people, ensuring healthy, livable communities for generations to come. Millions of people live near a Trust for Public Land park, garden, or natural area, and millions more visit these sites every year. To support The Trust for Public Land and share why nature matters to you, visit www.tpl.org.









Tim Ahern
Trust for Public Land

Dawn Sommers
Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board