D.C. Has the Best City Park System in the U.S., Trust for Public Land Study Says

Eric Broermann May 23, 2019

Nearly all District residents live within a 10-minute walk of a park.

Step aside, Minneapolis: The District is the nation’s park capital now. At least according to the latest annual ParkScore index by the Trust for Public Land, a parks- and conservation-focused nonprofit headquartered in San Francisco, which recognized D.C. as no. 1 among U.S. city park systems Wednesday. This is the first time in the ranking’s eight-year history that the District came in first; Minneapolis, which had held first since 2016, came in third.

With a score of 83.8 out of 100 possible points, D.C. bested Saint Paul (83.2), the city that ranked second. In a release, the Trust for Public Land says 98 percent of District residents live within a 10-minute walk of a park and 21 percent of the city’s area is dedicated to parks. Though D.C.’s median park size (1.4 acres) is less than those of Minneapolis (5.7 acres) and Saint Paul (3.2 acres), the nonprofit pointed to “the city’s improvements to park amenities.”

“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,” Mayor Muriel Bowser said in a statement hailing the analysis’s results. Neighboring Arlington (soon-to-be home to Amazon) came in fourth, with a score of 81.3.

Fletcher’s Cove | Shutterstock

Founded in 1972, the Trust for Public Land explains its ParkScore methodology as follows:

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.

After Arlington, the top-tier cities for parks were Portland, Oregon (79.7), Irvine, California (79.2), San Francisco (79), Cincinnati (78.3), New York (76), and Chicago (75). Boise, Idaho was honored as the “best park system for dogs,” having 5.7 dog parks per 100,000 residents.

Most parks in the District are controlled by the National Park Service, which, according to Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, recently said it would host quarterly meetings with residents. The D.C. Department of Parks and Recreation supervises other parks, including dog parks.


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