Minneapolis has nation’s best park system 6 years running, study says

Updated: May 30, 2018 – 2:33 pm

It’s become a slogan for the city’s park leaders that Minneapolis has the country’s No. 1 park system.

The title was once again affirmed Wednesday with the release of the Trust for Public Land’s latest ParkScore index, which Minneapolis has topped since it debuted on the list in 2013. The national nonprofit’s annual ranking of the country’s 100 largest cities is based on a park system’s park size, investments, amenities and access.

Mayor Jacob Frey described Minneapolis, which continues to narrowly edge ahead of second-place St. Paul after the two cities tied in 2015, as a “great city in a park.”

“From quality of life, to safe recreational space, to tourism — our parks are critical to who we are as a city. I’m thrilled that our park system continues to earn accolades. We have world class parks and the world is taking notice,” he said in a statement.

Minneapolis scored 84.2 out of a possible 100 points ahead of St. Paul (82.4), Washington, D.C. (81.9), Arlington, Virginia (81.6) and San Francisco (79.6).

The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board and other local agencies are on track to spend about $249 for each of the city’s nearly 416,000 residents on parks, which earned Minneapolis a perfect score in the investment category. The Park Board recently began a 20-year plan to invest $800 million over the next two decades into better maintaining the city’s neighborhood parks. Investment across the country totaled $7.5 billion this year, up $429 million over last year’s index.

“My motto is ‘playing for life’ and parks are a vital resource for youth, adults and families throughout the city. We are committed to serving the diverse needs of our residents, and we’re proud of the initiatives we’ve taken to continually assess and improve our park facilities and the services we provide the community,” said Superintendent Mary Merrill of the Park Board.

Minneapolis scored high because nearly all residents, about 97 percent, live within a half-mile or about a 10-minute walk away from a park, according to the Trust for Public Land.

San Francisco is the only city in the index to have 100 percent of its residents living within 10 minutes of park, a goal that more than 200 mayors across the country have adopted. About 70 percent of the country’s population measured in the index are within a half-mile of a park.

“The research is clear: quality, close-to-home parks are essential to communities. Everyone deserves a great park within a 10-minute walk (from) home,” said Diane Regas, the organization’s president and CEO.

St. Paul leads the country in its number of restrooms, or 10.5 for every 10,000 residents. Minneapolis has about 6.8 for 10,000 of its residents, far greater than the index’s national average of 2.4.

While Minneapolis did earn the top honor from the Trust for Public Land, the index indicates several opportunities for growth. Areas of high and very high need of additional parks exist near the heart of downtown Minneapolis and the North Loop, as well as the city’s southern border near Edina and Richfield. Many of the areas in need of additional parks are industrial or former industrial areas, such as the Hiawatha corridor and the Como neighborhood.

Boise, Idaho once again earned the honor of being the best park system for dogs with 6.7 dog parks per 100,000 residents, the highest in the country. More information about the index is available at parkscore.tpl.org.


The 10 highest-ranking park systems in 2018 (score out of 100)

  1. Minneapolis: 84.2
  2. Saint Paul: 82.4
  3. Washington, D.C.: 81.9
  4. Arlington, Virginia: 81.6
  5. San Francisco: 79.6
  6. Portland: 78.3
  7. Cincinnati: 78.2
  8. Chicago: 76.1
  9. New York: 74.8
  10. Irvine, California: 73.4


Recent Twin Cities ParkScore Index ratings


2018: 84.2

2017: 87.5

2016: 86.5

2015: 84

2014: 82

2013: 81

2012: N/A


St. Paul

2018: 82.4

2017: 82.5

2016: 82.5

2015: 84

2014: N/A

2013: N/A