DC takes top spot for parks; Arlington ranks No. 4

D.C. took the top ranking in the Trust for Public Land’s ParkScore index released Thursday.

The TPL said the nation’s capital got boosted by park equity in its evaluation of green spaces across the 100 largest cities in the U.S.

“We already loved our parks, but over this past year, as Washingtonians have made it a priority to spend more time outside, we have developed an even greater appreciation for our ability to play and gather in beautiful outdoor spaces across D.C.,” Mayor Muriel Bowser said in a release.

“We’re happy to be back in the number one spot, and we’ll continue to make convenient access to world-class parks and playgrounds a priority for residents in all eight wards of D.C.”

Arlington, Virginia, made a strong showing, too, placing fourth behind Saint Paul (No. 2) and Minneapolis (No. 3).

According to the TPL, 75% of residents across all ParkScore cities live within a 10-minute walk of a park, the highest access score in the index’s 10-year history.

The trust did note, however, that it found “significant inequities in park space and distribution.”

“Across all ParkScore cities, residents of neighborhoods where most people identify as Black, Hispanic and Latinx, Indigenous and Native American, or Asian American and Pacific Islander have access to an average of 44% less park space per capita than residents of neighborhoods that are predominantly white. Residents of low-income neighborhoods have access to 42% less park space than residents of high-income neighborhoods,” the release said.

Park use for COVID-19 testing was also highlighted in the report.

“Parks are always essential to our communities, and they are even more valuable in times of crisis,” said Diane Regas, president and CEO of The Trust for Public Land. “During this extraordinary pandemic year, people relied on close-to-home parks, trails and open spaces to exercise and connect with nature more than ever. Parks also served as makeshift community centers for emergency services like food distribution, COVID testing, and vaccine super-sites.”

The 10 highest-ranking park systems in the U.S. are:

Rank  City  ParkScore (Max: 100) 
1  Washington, DC  84.4 
2  St. Paul, MN  80.0 
3  Minneapolis, MN  79.7 
4  Arlington, VA  79.6 
5  Chicago, IL  77.2 
6  San Francisco, CA  76.3 
7  Irvine, CA  76.0 
8  Cincinnati, OH  75.9 
9  Seattle, WA  75.4 
10  Portland, OR  75.0 

More information, and the complete rankings, can be found online.

Will Vitka

William Vitka is a Digital Editor and reporter for WTOP.com. He's been in the news industry for over a decade. Before joining WTOP, he worked for CBS News, Stuff Magazine, The New York Post and wrote a variety of books—about a dozen of them, with more to come.

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