Dog Parks Lead Growth in Urban Parks

April 25, 2016
Washington, D.C.

Off-leash dog parks led the pack in new urban parks, growing by 4 percent in 2015 and 89 percent since 2007, according to The Trust for Public Land’s most recent data on the nation’s 100 biggest city park systems across the country.

Nearly every big city now has at least one dedicated dog park, often with a name that reflects the creativity and exuberance of the movement. Fort Worth pups play at Fort Woof, Memphis pets frolic at Overton Bark, Dallas dogs run at My Best Friend’s Park, and Atlanta pooches scamper at Freedom Barkway.

“Americans love dogs, and parks increasingly reflect that fact as people want places for them to get outside and take their dogs with them,” said Peter Harnik, who led the study.

“With pet ownership on the rise across all demographics, it’s no surprise that dog parks, particularly those in urban areas, are on the rise too,” said Brad Weston, president and chief merchant at San Diego-based pet specialty retailer, Petco. “As pet parents become more in tune with the physical, mental, social and emotional needs of their pets, we expect to see communities embrace even more pet-friendly amenities in the future.”

The 2016 City Parks Facts report, now available at www.tpl.org/cityparkfacts, is the nation’s most complete compilation of data about parks in the nation’s largest 100 cities. The report is compiled by The Trust for Public Land’s Center for City Park Excellence.

When it comes to the number of dog parks, the cities that score the highest on a per-resident basis are Henderson, Nev., Portland, Ore., Norfolk, Las Vegas, and Madison.

The 2016 City Park Facts also includes a number of other measures of how city park systems serve their citizens, including acreage, park access, specific recreational facilities, division between designed and natural lands, and much more.

The total spending on public parks and recreation in the 100 largest cities reached $6.996 billion in 2015. Among other 2015 findings from the TPL data:

  • Operating spending rose in 51 cities and fell in 42 cities
  • capital spending rose in 48 cities and fell in 42 cities
  • In the 93 cities reporting data from both years, total spending was up 8.8 percent -- operating spending was up 3.9 percent to $4.98 billion and capital spending was up 23 percent to $1.95 billion.

Based on data from 2015, the best-funded major city park and recreation systems were in Seattle, San Francisco, Minneapolis, Washington, D.C., and St. Louis. The lowest-funded departments were in Detroit, Stockton, Calif., Newark, N.J., Pittsburgh, and Glendale, Ariz.

City park systems offer a wide range of places to play and socialize, from remote natural areas to downtown paved plazas, from park playgrounds and community gardens to bike trails and large sports fields.

According to City Park Facts, skate parks, which were up 6 percent in 2015 and 27 percent over the past five years, are especially popular in Chula Vista, Calif., Sacramento, and Henderson. For a plentitude of community gardens, look to Portland, Ore. and Washington, D.C. The leaders in recreation centers are Baton Rouge, Minneapolis, Cincinnati, and Washington, D.C., and, in swimming pools, Cleveland, Cincinnati, and Pittsburgh.

The Trust for Public Land creates parks and protects land for people, ensuring healthy, livable communities for generations to come. Millions of people live near a Trust for Public Land park, garden, or natural area, and millions more visit these sites every year. To support The Trust for Public Land and share why nature matters to you, visit www.tpl.org.