The Trust for Public Land Releases 2016 ParkScore® Index, Rating Park Systems in the 100 Largest U.S. Cities

Minneapolis Edges out Saint Paul for Title of Nation’s Best Park System,   DC-area Cities Take 3rd and 4th, besting San Francisco, Portland and New York

Minneapolis has the best park system in the United States, according to The Trust for Public Land’s 5th annual ParkScore® index, which was released today by the non-profit organization. Minneapolis narrowly edged out Saint Paul for the top spot after the cross-town rivals tied for first in 2015.

Washington, DC, placed third in the ParkScore rankings, finishing one spot ahead of neighboring Arlington, Virginia. San Francisco, Portland, New York, Irvine, Boston, Cincinnati and Madison rounded out the top 10 (Cincinnati and Madison tied for 10th).

“Everyone in America deserves to live within a 10-minute walk of a park, and ParkScore helps us measure which cities are meeting that mark,” said Will Rogers, President of The Trust for Public Land.

Fourth place Arlington, VA, was the top-ranked city to debut on the ParkScore list in 2016. Eighth-ranked Irvine and tenth-ranked Madison also debuted this year. Three debut cities landed in the bottom 10: Hialeah, FL (tied with Mesa, AZ, for 91st); Winston-Salem, NC (tied with Louisville for 93rd); and last place Fort Wayne, IN.

In addition to ranking park systems in the 100 most populous U.S. cities, ParkScore also provides a one-to-five park bench rating summary that provides a snapshot of local park quality. In 2016, three cities received the highest possible 5-bench rating: Minneapolis, Saint Paul, and Washington, DC. The Trust for Public Land also reported that returning ParkScore cities increased spending on parks by an average of $1 per person in 2016.

“Cities are investing in park systems and that’s showing up on the ParkScore index. It is great news for public health, the environment, and local economies,” said Adrian Benepe, Senior Vice President and Director of City Park Development for The Trust for Public Land. “Parks provide places for children and adults to get exercise, and they serve as local meeting places where friendships are built and a sense of community is strengthened,” he added.

ParkScores are based on three factors: Park Access, which measures the percentage of residents living within a 10-minute walk of a park (approximately ½-mile); Park Size, which is based on a city’s median park size and the percentage of total city area dedicated to parks; and Facilities and Investment, which combines park spending per resident with the availability of four popular park amenities: basketball hoops, off-leash dog parks, playgrounds, and recreation & senior centers.

ParkScore champion Minneapolis scored strongly on all ParkScore rating factors. In Minneapolis, 95 percent of residents live within a 10-minute walk of a park, and 14.9 percent of city area is reserved for parks. Second-place finisher Saint Paul slightly outscored Minneapolis for park access (96 percent within a 10-minute walk) but ceded the top spot to its neighbor due to its smaller median park size (3.7 acres vs. 6.5 acres). And although New York City moved down slightly in the rankings, its spending increased a whopping $14 per resident compared to last year.

Among the cities evaluated by ParkScore in 2016, San Francisco provides the greatest park access, with 99 percent of residents living within a 10-minute walk of a park. Charlotte took the title for largest median park size (15.9 acres), but its overall ranking was hurt by low marks for park access and park facilities. Fresno, California, marked an important achievement for 2016, climbing out of last position for the first time in ParkScore history. The Central California city was buoyed by the opening of several new playgrounds and a dog park.

According to The Trust for Public Land, the 10 highest-ranking park systems in the United States are:

  1. Minneapolis 5.0 park benches
  2. Saint Paul 5.0 park benches
  3. Washington, DC 5.0 park benches
  4. Arlington, VA 4.5 park benches DEBUT YEAR
  5. San Francisco 4.5 park benches
  6. Portland, OR 4.5 park benches
  7. New York 4.5 park benches
  8. Irvine 4.5 park benches DEBUT YEAR
  9. Boston 4.5 park benches
  10. Cincinnati (tie) 4.0 park benches
  11. Madison, WI (tie) 4.0 park benches DEBUT YEAR

The 10 lowest-ranking park systems are:

  1. Jacksonville (tie) 1.5 park benches
  2. Oklahoma City (tie) 1.5 park benches
  3. Hialeah (tie) 1.5 park benches DEBUT YEAR
  4. Mesa, AZ (tie) 1.5 park benches
  5. Louisville (tie) 1.5 park benches
  6. Winston-Salem (tie) 1.5 park benches DEBUT YEAR
  7. Charlotte (tie) 1.0 park benches
  8. Indianapolis (tie) 1.0 park benches
  9. Fresno 1.0 park benches
  10. Fort Wayne, IN 1.0 park benches DEBUT YEAR

“ParkScore expanded from 75 to 100 cities for 2016, and the new entrants shook up the rankings. With three new park systems in both the Top 10 and Bottom 10, ParkScore looks different than ever before,” said Peter Harnik, director of The Trust for Public Land’s Center for City Park Excellence.

Gilbert, AZ, and Laredo, TX, were not ranked because they did not provide parks data to The Trust for Public Land.

ParkScore uses advanced GIS (geographic information system) computer mapping technology to create digital maps evaluating park accessibility, making it the most realistic assessment system available. Instead of simply measuring distance to a local park, ParkScore’s GIS technology takes into account the location of park entrances and physical obstacles to access. For example, if residents are separated from a nearby park by a major highway, ParkScore does not count the park as accessible to those residents (unless there is a bridge, underpass, or easy access point across the highway).

Also, ParkScore features an in-depth website that local leaders can use as a roadmap to guide park improvement efforts. The website,, provides extensive data and analysis that pinpoints the neighborhoods where parks are needed most critically. The website includes interactive maps of each ParkScore city that allow users to zoom in and study park access on a block-by-block basis. The website is free and open to the public.

For more information about ParkScore, visit and join the discussion on Twitter @TPL_org, #ParkScore.