Hands holding a stopwatch
Flickr user Marty Hadding

Parks on the clock: why we believe in the 10-minute walk

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What can you get done in 10 minutes? Maybe a few quick chores, like folding the laundry or tidying up in the garage. You could read a chapter of that book you’ve been meaning to finish or—let’s be honest—get to the bottom of your Facebook feed.

But what The Trust for Public Land wants to know is: could you walk to the park?

A family walks on the Eastside corridorThe best-case scenario: green space right out the front door.Photo Credit: Tegra Stone Nuess

Even if you love getting outside, you know there's a big difference between a park down the street and one across town. If a trip to the park means waiting for the bus—or packing the family into the car and sitting in traffic—all those other options start to sound more appealing. But having green space in the neighborhood opens up possibilities: a quick jog before work, a picnic lunch break, or even sending older kids out to play on their own after school.

For park planners, that convenience factor matters. Easy access to green space contributes to the quality of life that's key to cities attracting and keeping residents and businesses. Plus, it's a public health issue: research has shown that people who regularly use parks get more and better exercise than people who don’t. A park close by can improve the well-being of everyone from a child managing ADHD to a senior recovering from hip surgery. 

A girl jumps ropeWe think every kid should have a park just a hop, skip, and a jump away.Photo credit: Jenna Stamm

So how close is close enough? Most large cities—70 of the biggest 100, by our last count—set a standard by distance; of those, 61 percent define "close" as within a half-mile. In our experience building parks around the country, we've found that makes sense—so long as we're talking a half-mile on public roads and pathways. (A great park a hundred yards away doesn't do you much good if those hundred yards cross private property or a busy freeway.)

Though walking speeds vary, the Department of Transportation agrees that most people can walk a half-mile in about 10 minutes. At The Trust for Public Land, we believe everyone should be able to reach a park in that amount of time—no matter what kind of neighborhood you live in. That's why we're helping cities prioritize creating and improving parks in the places that need them most.

If you're curious to see how well your city meets the 10-minute mark, check out The Trust for Public Land's ParkScore® index



Edwolyn Dooley-...
I live in Marietta, GA and can see a park from my living room (Fair Oaks Park). This park abuts the back yard of the 21houses across the street from my house. The sad thing is that our neighborhood cannot access this park unless we climb a fence or get in our cars and drive about 5-6 miles. I love the "Parks on the Clock" concept! What a wonderful idea that I hope can become more widespread throughout the country.
They are taking our parks away, making fewer and fewer and farther and farther away. And the ones that are in existence, are ALWAYS frequented by Drugs and Homeless. No matter where they are.
Maureen Allen
"Park" now means clear-cutting for clusters of baseball diamonds, tennis courts, bleachers, maybe a concrete picnic area whose trash cans overflow--and "No Dogs." While we need those amenities, we also need tranquil paths among tall trees, grassy clearings, a place where a painter might set up an easel, where birds can nest and people can stroll at leisure. Were I to be given the wherewithal, I would explore the possibilities of transforming abandoned/unused commercial properties into parks--real parks. Yes, taking up the vast, empty, asphalt parking lots, the desolate "big box" stores and planting trees, native grasses, wildflowers. Security and maintenance would be key budget issues, resolved through public-private partnerships in the area of benefit.
Madison May
I'm working with Nonconnah Creek Conservancy. We are on the 'heartbeat' And are looking to acquire the land nessessary for one of the oldest Indian sight In central Memphis for the education, relaxation, as well as a central Greenway to enjoy Nature first hand by all native Urban Memphians. We would invite your comments and monetary contributions for all of central Memphis to enjoy our wild Beauti Nonconnah Creek flowera and fauna.
Doreen Jane
Amazing and numerous parks in Tallahassee, FL!
Nancy Shufeldt
yes we have Forest Park here in St Louis Mo! " "Forest Park was dedicated on June 24, 1876, coinciding with the centenary of the United States Declaration of Independence. It played host to the 1904 World's Fair. The 1,300-acre park offers something for everyone — amazing destinations and institutions that challenge the mind, a Dual Path system that invites both leisurely walks and intense workouts, quiet places to picnic and read, and a variety of popular festivals and events — all set in the background of a city oasis, a place to escape it all." we have the zoo the st county Art Museum plus free movies in front of the art museum plus The Muny theater I mean so much is always going on at the Park. it is 5 minute walk from me. it is wonderful!
I live 15 miles from I-75 south in rural Georgia between Atlanta and Macon. We have a new, beautiful little park that I can see from my home. I can walk there within 5 minutes. It has a walking path with two routes, picnic areas, and a small waterfall and cement pond. We even have a dog park that's divided into a small dog area and a large dog area! I watched it grow from a football field with a parking lot into this lovely little park. It's quite a jewel. I just wish more people would use it.
Murray Aronson
I live in West Hollywood and I live near Plummer Park which is under a ten minute walk. It has limited green space, but it is heavily used. So it rates as a success. I also live near, probably a 10-minute walk, from Poinsettia Park which is in the city of Los Angeles and is also heavily used. About a twenty minute walk is Pan Pacific Park which is also heavily used by people of different backgrounds. All these parks have limited green space for trees, regular ole plants, and similar kinds of birds. People need guided recreation, not places for quiet reflection and meditation in the harmony of nature.
Nicole Thibadeaux
I live in West Hills, CA, in an area your interactive map considers "moderate need." (light orange) Ironically, I live next to a 4.5 acre field that has been purchased for development into a paved-over small-lot subdivision. Because this piece of land is adjacent to the Los Angeles River headwaters (namely, Bell Creek) and is beside an historic building, the local neighbors hae been seeking to get the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy to purchase the property for a future public park/wildlife sanctuary/water filtration park to clean water from storm drains before entering the LA river. For reasons I don't understand, the SMMC has not been able to free up sufficient funds for the purchase, despite enthusiastic interest in acquiring the property. Is there any way the Trust for Public Land would be willing or able to lend their support and fundraising capacity to protect one of the last natural green spaces in the San Fernando Valley? Our neighborhood is full of young families and retirees and we are not affluent enough to purchase the property ourselves, especially having just concluded a lawsuit to prevent apartment buildings on the same property. Please let me(us) know if there is any way we can work together to preserve this greenspace. Thank you for your consideration.
Lauren Garrott
I totally agree with this article. Cities need to have more neighborhood parks because they are easy to access and free. Based on my master's research, there are already enough barriers to being physically active like lack of time and family responsibilities; let's not make access to parks another barrier.
Robby Layton
As a chronological metric, 10 minutes is indeed an widely-used standard, and translates well into a half-mile network distance. It's also conveniently a nice round number that's easy to remember. But how do we know that 10 is the magic number where the decision to walk to a park changes? Is there evidence that backs it up? I would like to see more research to support this metric and to refine it's application in the planning realm, because I agree that it is important and deserves more than anectdotal justification. Thanks for the article!
Hello, you used to write magnificent, but the last several posts have been kinda boring… I miss your great writings. Past few posts are just a little bit out of track! come on!
Bob Roth
I live in District 3 - Cobb County, GA. I would now be overjoyed with just one park! Because of overbuilding and terrible planning it would be impossible to locate a park within 10 minutes walk or .5 miles of my home. When I first started extolling the virtues of a maximum 10 minute walk to the nearest park, I thought that this proposal or plan was originally created by a visionary US city such as Minneapolis or St. Paul. Turns out it was an edict promulgated by Napoleon III in his rebuilding of Paris starting about 1850. We need a visionary such as Napoleon III in Cobb County!

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