Study: Minneapolis best park city in the U.S.

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June 5, 2013
By: Nick Halter
Lake Calhoun is a popular spot for Minneapolis residents
File Photo
Nick Halter
The second annual study, done by the nonprofit Trust for Public Lands, ranks the largest 50 cities on things like access to parks, park spending and playgrounds.

A study released today ranks Minneapolis as the best major city for parks in the United States because of its abundance of parkland and investment in green space.

The second annual study, done by the nonprofit Trust for Public Lands, ranks the largest 50 cities on things like access to parks, park spending and playgrounds. Last year the study only scored the top 40 cities, leaving Minneapolis, the 48th largest, out of the rankings.

“I think the residents of Minneapolis should be proud of this,” said Minneapolis Park Board President John Erwin. “This is just a reflection of the commitment that the citizens in this town have to parks.”

The study found that 94 percent of Minneapolis resident live within a 10-minute walk of a park, one of the highest rates nationwide. Parkland in Minneapolis tops 5,500 acres, or about 15 percent of the city’s land. The city boasts 12 playgrounds per 10,000 residents.

“Minneapolis scored strongly on all ParkScore rating factors,” the TPL wrote in a news release.

Erwin credited the high ranking to a number of factors. When the park system was created, shoreline along lakes and rivers was seen as a place for recreation, so trails and parks were built around it, not houses.

He also said the Park Board strives to provide a park within 6 to 10 blocks of every resident, a goal that has been reached across much of the city, though a couple pockets still remain.

Erwin said downtown still lacks park amenities like ball fields, but the Legislature recently gave the Park Board the authority to levy a fee on new development to help pay for new parks or park upgrades in areas where the city is booming.

At $210 per city resident, or $80 million total, park spending in Minneapolis is ranked high compared to other cities, according to the study.  

However, park spending includes all money spent on parkland in the city, which would also include federal, state and regional funds used for parks in the city.

Erwin pointed out that the Park Board’s tax levy in 2012 was just under $49 million, for a per capita level of $128. 

Minneapolis, with an overall score of 81 out of 100, ranked ahead of New York City (73.5), Boston (72.5), Sacramento (72.5) and last year’s top city, San Francisco (72.5).

The lowest rated cities were Fresno, Louisville, Indianapolis, Charlotte and Mesa.

Fellow Midwestern cities Chicago and Milwaukee ranked 16th and 19th, respectively.