Mill Creek, a part of the Bonneville Shoreline Trail project near Salt Lake City, UT. Photos by Mike Schirf.
© Mike Schirf

New study: the 50 best cities to #OptOutside

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If the words “holiday shopping season” strike dread in your heart, you’re not alone. That’s why we want to help you #OptOutside this holiday season. Instead of spending the day after Thanksgiving at the mall, we hope you round up a crew and head for the hills—or the playground, or the beach, or the crag—because we know there are some gifts only nature can provide, and that the high point of any holiday is the time we spend with the people we care about. 

co_mestizo-curtispark_04082014_026.jpgNo matter who you are, or where you live, you deserve great parks in your neighborhood, and easy access to the wilder open spaces where you can meet nature on its own terms. Mestizo Curtis Park, Denver, Colorado.Photo credit: Ian MacLellan

We also know that many people want to #OptOutside—but can’t. So this holiday season, we're partnering with REI to analyze access to parks and open space and evaluate the challenges urban residents face in meeting their need for nature. 

We examined how many acres of public land residents of the 200 largest cities can reach within a 60-minute drive—since for working parents, or families without cars, anything further away is essentially out of reach. We also counted up how many people in each city have a neighborhood park within a 10-minute walk of home.  From that analysis, we identified the 50 best American cities to #OptOutside:

Albuquerque, New Mexico
Alexandria, Virginia
Arlington, Virginia
Aurora, Colorado
Bellevue, Washington
Boise, Idaho
Chandler, Arizona
Eugene, Oregon
Fullerton, California
Glendale, Arizona
Glendale, California
Henderson, Nevada
Huntington Beach, California
Irvine, California
Jersey City, New Jersey
Lakewood, Colorado
Las Vegas
Mesa, Arizona
Miami, Florida
New York
Newark, New Jersey
North Las Vegas, Nevada
Oakland, California
Oxnard, California
Pasadena, California
Peoria, Arizona
Pomona, California
Portland, Oregon
Providence, Rhode Island
Reno, Nevada
Roseville, California
Salinas, California
Salt Lake City
San Francisco
Spokane, Washington
Springfield, Massachusetts
St. Louis
St. Paul, Minnesota
Tempe, Arizona
Thornton, Colorado
Torrance, California
Vancouver, Washington
Washington, D.C.
West Valley, Utah

mn_coneyisland_10162015_11Our new study in partnership with REI finds that two in three people in the largest U.S. cities have below-average access to public lands. We're working to save places like Coney Island in Minnesota's Lake Waconia, 30 minutes from Minneapolis. Photo credit: Andy Richter

Another discovery: pretty much any way we slice the data, it's clear there are major disparities in access to public lands. For example, our data shows that in America’s 3,000 largest cities, two in three people have below-average access to public lands. And even if you live in one of the top 50 spots for access to public lands within a 60-minute drive, your city might still significantly under-perform when it comes to access to parks within a 10-minute walk of home.

Check out in-depth access information for the top 50 cities to #OptOutside.

At The Trust for Public Land, we believe that everyone deserves great neighborhood parks and easy access to the wild open spaces where you can meet nature on its own terms. We’ve been building parks and protecting land for people since 1972, when our founders helped protect the famous Marin Headlands from development, preserving over 10,000 acres of beautiful wilderness just across the Golden Gate Bridge from downtown San Francisco. Today, we’re still focused on saving land and building parks for the communities that need them most.

ca_temescal_03282017_061Last year, we protected part of Temescal Ranch, a 6,000-acre open space at the doorstep of Los Angeles. When the project is complete, this will be the largest property every conserved in L.A. County.Photo credit: Annie Bang

Are you planning to #OptOutside with us on Green Friday? Take the #OptOutside pledge, then head over to Facebook and tell us where you'll go!


Ann Marie Passanisi
Headed for the White Mountains the day after Thanksgiving!
Nona Ross
Please do not mention Oregon so often. We want visitors not stayers
Give me a break. Oregon's only mentioned twice, which is diddly compared to some other states. Oregon's beautiful, no doubt, but the Oregonian high-horse attitude is anything but.
Steve Perkins
Did you even bother to look at Huntsville, AL at all? It does not appear so. Huntsville ranks 126 in size and has FAR better access to public lands than many of those on your list! Our metro area is PACKED with state parks, local parks, Land Trusts, greenways, free public hiking, biking, boating, canoeing, spelunking and camping options, not to mention all of the beautifully managed city parks located throughout the metro area! I suspect the fact that we are in Alabama had something to do with why you completely IGNORED us...
Margo Clark
Absolutely needed in all major cities in America. Urban areas lack so many green spaces.
Rod Daynes
Hey, that guy with the bike on the cover shot is looking over the Salt Lake Valley, yes?
Cleveland, Ohio should be on this list. Someone does not know about their system of beautiful Metro Parks!
Jonathan Duda
Heading to a few of the preserved lands by the Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy dotted around the Capital Region with the wife and mother-in-law this #optoutside day!
Margaret Clinch
We need more parks, and preferably parks which we know we own ourselves as people. The government must stop 'using parks'. They are already being used and enjoyed by us, and we need them to be live human beings.
I'm surprised that Louisville, KY is not mentioned. I have visited my husband's family there, and was very impressed with the 3 huge parks they have in that city!
Mary Campion
Frightening and tragic that no one is walking outside in most of California right now.

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