Minneapolis Ranked Nation’s Best Park System on Trust for Public Land’s 2013 ParkScore® Index

Minneapolis earned the first-ever “five park bench” rating on The Trust for Public Land’s ParkScore® index, finishing first among the 50 U.S. largest U.S. cities. Minneapolis scored well on all ParkScore rating factors, with especially high marks for park accessibility and park system investment. The ParkScore index rates city park systems on a scale of zero to five park benches.

“You can’t have a great city without great parks,” said Adrian Benepe, Senior Vice President and Director of City Park Development for The Trust for Public Land. “Parks bring neighbors together and help create a sense of community. They give kids and parents a place to play, walk around, and just relax and experience nature. That’s why we believe that that cities with great park systems tend to be healthier and have lower rates of obesity.”

ParkScore ratings are based equally 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 Services and investment, which combines the number of playgrounds per 10,000 city residents and per capita park spending.

With 94 percent of residents living within a 10-minute walk of a park or trail, Minneapolis received high marks for park accessibility. The city also ranked highly for park investment, with per capita spending exceeded only by San Francisco, Washington DC, Seattle, and Las Vegas.

Minneapolis was included in the 2013 ParkScore index after the rating system expanded to the 50 largest U.S. cities, up from the 40 largest last year. Minneapolis is the 48th largest U.S. city, according to the Census Bureau.  While St. Paul (66th largest) was not rated by ParkScore, Trust for Public Land analysts determined that if the two cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul were evaluated as a single municipality, together they would have scored first on the ParkScore index.

“In Minnesota, safe, attractive, and accessible outdoor spaces are key to our much-valued quality of life.  In our cities, we rely upon our parks for individual recreation, family outings, and community activities.  I congratulate Minneapolis upon receiving this national recognition for providing our country’s best park system,” said Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton.

“We’re thrilled to receive this prestigious honor from The Trust for Public Land. It’s a wonderful tribute to all the hard work we’ve put into the park system for 130 years. But I want to make clear to the people of Minneapolis and the Twin Cities region that we’re not done yet. We are committed to opening new public green spaces, improving parks that already exist and holding on to our #1 ranking for many years to come,” said Jayne Miller, Superintendent of the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board. 

Video highlights from 2013 Parkscore awards ceremony honoring Minneapolis as No. 1.

“The Trust for Public Land has big plans in Minneapolis and St. Paul. We have been working in Minneapolis to support a strong vision for downtown parks. We’re also embarking on a Green Line Parks & Commons initiative, alongside the new light-rail line, that will operate between downtown Minneapolis and downtown St. Paul. The Trust for Public Land is also working closely with city officials and community leaders to create a 12.7 acre park with an urban demonstration farm in St. Paul’s Frogtown neighborhood. We expect all of these initiatives to spur even more park development and enhance quality of life for children, families, workers and visitors in Minneapolis and St. Paul,” said Susan Schmidt, State Director for 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). 

In addition to the at-a-glance park bench summary rating, ParkScore features an in-depth website that local leaders can use as a roadmap to guide park improvement efforts. The website, parkscore.tpl.org, 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 allows users to browse detailed information about each public park in the 50 ParkScore cities and to view local obesity rates compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The website is free and open to the public.

“Physical inactivity is a major contributor to the obesity epidemic and a risk factor for many serious and preventable chronic diseases,” said William H. Dietz, MD, PhD, a pediatrician who recently served as Director of the Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Improving access to places to play is a proven strategy for increasing activity that all municipal leaders should embrace. Parks improve health and prevent disease,” Dietz said.

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


1.       Minneapolis               5.0  park benches

2.       New York                    4.5  park benches

3.       Boston (tie)                4.0  park benches

3.       Sacramento (tie)        4.0  park benches

3.       San Francisco (tie)     4.0  park benches

6.       Washington, DC        4.0  park benches

7.       Portland                     4.0  park benches

8.       Virginia Beach           4.0  park benches

9.       San Diego                  4.0  park benches

10.     Seattle                        4.0  park benches


The 13 lowest-ranking city park systems are:


38.        Houston (tie)                    2.0 park benches

38.        Miami (tie)                       2.0 park benches

38.        Nashville (tie)                  2.0 park benches

38.        Tucson (tie)                     2.0 park benches

42.        Memphis                         1.5 park benches

43.        Oklahoma City                1.5 park benches

44.        Jacksonville (tie)             1.5 park benches

44.        San Antonio (tie)             1.5 park benches

46.        Mesa, AZ                        1.5 park benches

47.        Indianapolis (tie)             1.0 park benches

47.        Charlotte (tie)                 1.0 park benches

49.        Louisville                        1.0 park benches

50.        Fresno                           1.0 park benches


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

About The Trust for Public Land

Founded in 1972, The Trust for Public Land is the leading nonprofit working to conserve land for people. Operating from more than 30 offices nationwide, The Trust for Public Land has protected more than three million acres from the inner city to the wilderness and helped generate more than $34 billion in public funds for conservation. Nearly ten million people live within a ten-minute walk of a Trust for Public Land park, garden, or natural area, and millions more visit these sites every year. Learn more at tpl.org.