The Trust for Public Land Releases 2017 ParkScore® Index, Rating Park Systems in the 100 Largest U.S. Cities

Minneapolis has the best park system in the United States, according to The Trust for Public Land’s 6th annual ParkScore® index, which was released today by the non-profit organization.

Minneapolis narrowly edged out cross-town rival Saint Paul to earn top honors for the second consecutive year. San Francisco climbed into third, pulling ahead of Washington, DC, and Arlington, VA, mostly because of improved access to basketball courts at schoolyards now open after hours and on weekends. Portland, Irvine, New York, Madison, and Cincinnati rounded out the top 10.

Fresno shook up the bottom of the ParkScore rankings, vaulting from last year’s 97th to a tie for 90th place (with Hialeah and Jacksonville, FL). Fresno’s climb stemmed mostly from the creation of “joint use” agreements that open school playgrounds and athletic fields for public use after school hours and on weekends. Fresno had been the lowest ranking ParkScore city from 2012-2015.

“Joint use of school facilities is a major national trend, and a very positive development. Keeping playgrounds and athletic fields open to the public when schools are closed helps cities significantly increase park access at relatively low cost. The Trust for Public Land enthusiastically supports joint use, but it does not replace the need for new park acquisition and open space preservation,” said Will Rogers, President of The Trust for Public Land.

“Everyone in America deserves to live within a 10-minute walk of a park. Parks are proven to improve physical and mental health, increase property values, and bring neighbors together to nurture the personal bonds that make our communities special,” said Charlie McCabe, Director of The Trust for Public Land’s Center for City Parks Excellence.

ParkScore rankings 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 and senior centers.

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 2017, three cities received the highest possible 5-bench rating: Minneapolis, Saint Paul, and San Francisco.

ParkScore champion Minneapolis scored strongly on all ParkScore rating factors. In Minneapolis, 97 percent of residents live within a 10-minute walk of a park, and 15 percent of city area is reserved for parks. Second-place finisher Saint Paul nearly matched Minneapolis for park access, amenities, and investment but ceded the top spot due to its smaller median park size (3.7 acres vs. 6.6 acres). Third place San Francisco outperformed both Minnesota cities for investment and access, but was third overall, mostly because of its comparatively small median park size, 1.6 acres. Boise, ID, led the nation with 7.2 dog parks per 100,000 residents and tied for 35th position overall (with Raleigh).

“You can’t have a great city without a great park system,” said Adrian Benepe, Senior Vice President and Director of City Park Development for The Trust for Public Land. “Our top-ranked park systems are terrific, but all cities have room to improve. ParkScore is a tool that city leaders can use to guide park improvement, helping planners identify where they should focus their efforts, so more residents can live within a 10-minute walk of a well-planned and well-maintained park.”

Rank City Park Bench Summary Raw Score (Max 100)
1. Minneapolis 5.0 park benches 87.5
2. Saint Paul 5.0 park benches 82.5
3. San Francisco 5.0 park benches 80.0
4. Washington, DC 4.5 park benches 79.0
5. Portland, OR 4.5 park benches 77.5
6. Arlington, VA 4.5 park benches 76.5
7. Irvine (tie) 4.5 park benches 74.0
7. New York (tie) 4.5 park benches 74.0
9. Madison, WI 4.5 park benches 73.5
10. Cincinnati 4.0park benches 71.5

The lowest-ranking park systems are:

Rank City Park Bench Summary Raw Score (Max 100)
90. Fresno (tie) 1.5 park benches 33.5
90. Hialeah, FL (tie) 1.5 park benches 33.5
90. Jacksonville, FL (tie) 1.5 park benches 33.5
93. Laredo, TX (tie) 1.5 park benches 32.5
93. Winston-Salem (tie) 1.5 park benches 32.5
95. Mesa, AZ 1.5 park benches 31.5
96. Louisville 1.5 park benches 31.0
97. Charlotte 1.0 park benches 29.0
98. Fort Wayne (tie) 1.0 park benches 28.5
98. Indianapolis (tie) 1.0 park benches 28.5

Gilbert, AZ was not ranked because the city 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). Esri and The Trust for Public Land collaborated on GIS design and implementation, helping to make ParkScore the most comprehensive park evaluation tool ever created.

ParkScore is free and open to the public to use as a roadmap to guide park improvement efforts. Users can browse interactive maps and zoom in and study park access on a block-by-block basis, pinpointing the neighborhoods where parks are most needed.

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