City park fans volunteering more often, new Trust for Public Land report shows

Thousands of volunteers worked at city parks around the nation, leading to a sharp increase in the amount of volunteer park help in America’s largest cities, according to a report released today by The Trust for Public Land.

“April is National Volunteer Month and with Earth Day coming up April 22, it’s a good time to recognize that local volunteers working in the city parks are crucially important to America’s superb urban park system,” Adrian Benepe, The Trust for Public Land’s SVP and Director of City Park Development. “With two out of three city residents living within a 10-minute walk of a park, recreational spaces are prized by city residents who show their love with sweat equity.”

“More than 16.4 million volunteer hours were donated to city parks in 85 of the 100 largest cities in the past year, a five percent increase from the 2013 total of 15.5 million hours Since 2008, volunteer hours have risen 6.6 million hours or 40%,” said Charlie McCabe, Director of the Trust for Public Land’s Center for City Park Excellence, which produces the report.

The data is part of City Park Facts (, a compilation of facts about parks in America’s largest 100 cities. The report comes only six weeks before the May 24 release of ParkScore, The Trust for Public Land’s latest list of rankings of the best of those 100 city park systems.

Benepe, the former New York City Parks Commissioner, noted that cities count on volunteers. “The renaissance of NYC’s park system was made possible in large measure by volunteers, from major donors to neighborhood residents raking leaves and painting benches. In fact, NYC partners with the City Parks Foundation to run a massive model volunteer program, “Partnerships for Parks.”

Mitchell Silver, the current New York Parks Commissioner, said, “Volunteers act out of love for their community, and our parks benefit from all that love. Individuals across the city pitch in to clean, plant, paint, and organize activities in our 2,000 parks and playgrounds. Our volunteers keep our parks growing and thriving with contributions as diverse as New York itself.”

Other U.S. city park directors echoed those sentiments about the importance of volunteer help.

Jayne Miller, Superintendent of the Minneapolis Parks District, said, “In 2016, nearly 12,000 individuals volunteered 151,000 hours of service – an estimated $3.5 million worth of labor – for youth sports, recreation center programs and activities, and in our gardens and natural areas.”

In Jacksonville, Fla., Daryl Joseph, Director of Parks, Recreation and Community Services, said, “With nearly 400 properties, JaxParks relies on the generous assistance of community volunteers. In recent years, Jacksonville has averaged 18,000 volunteers providing over 800,000 hours valued at $18 million a year.”

Kimberly McNeely, Interim Director of Parks & Recreation in Austin TX agreed, saying; “The City of Austin had over 20,000 volunteers who donated 55,000 hours of service last year. Volunteers play an essential part in creating community.”

Phil Ginsburg, General Manager of the San Francisco Recreation and Parks Department, said, “For San Francisco’s parks, our margin of excellence includes the 180,000 annual hours that volunteers invest in their beloved parks. From Pacific Heights to the Bayview and from the Sunset to Chinatown, our neighborhood parks and recreation centers are the beneficiaries of the time and sweat donated thousands of San Franciscans each year.”