Washington, DC, Park System Ranked as Nation’s Best In Trust for Public Land’s Annual ParkScore® Index; Minneapolis Places Second and Saint Paul Finishes Third

Trust for Public Land announced today that Washington, DC, was rated the nation’s best big-city park system by the 2024 ParkScore® index. Minneapolis, Minnesota, placed second, St. Paul ranked third, and Irvine, California, held its highest-ever fourth-place finish. The ParkScore index evaluates park systems in the 100 largest U.S. cities.

Accompanying the annual ratings list, Trust for Public Land published new research reporting that residents of cities with high ParkScore rankings are, on average, more socially connected and engaged with their neighbors than are residents of cities with lower-ranking park systems. The research report, The Power of Parks to Strengthen Community, found that residents of cities ranking in the top quarter of the ParkScore index are 60 percent more likely to volunteer than are residents of lower-ranking cities. Residents of higher-ranking cities are also 26 percent more likely to form friendships with people in different socio-economic groups. A strong body of research indicates that relationships crossing income divides increase economic mobility and reduce inequality. Social connections also lead to better physical and mental health.

The Power of Parks to Strengthen Community, details many strategies used by civic leaders to facilitate social connection at parks. Some common tactics include hosting movie nights and other gatherings at public recreation centers, sponsoring arts and fitness classes, and supporting voter registration drives. The research is based on nearly 900 examples shared with Trust for Public Land by city park leaders.

“Park leaders are stepping up to promote community connection and address the national epidemic of loneliness and social isolation,” says Diane Regas, President and CEO of Trust for Public Land. “By mixing tried and true strategies like fitness classes and sports leagues with innovative ideas like intergenerational storytime, where senior volunteers share their favorite books with children, cities are finding creative ways to bring people together and strengthen community bonds. We’re impressed by what we’ve seen this year, and we will continue working with cities throughout the United States to support park access for all.”

Sherry Taylor, a 34-year-old single mother from Raleigh, North Carolina, explained to the Trust for Public Land how “Welcome to Raleigh Parks,” a program created by the city, helped her find camaraderie with other single parents in the community. When the local park offered a live broadcast of a FIFA Women’s World Cup soccer match in 2023, Taylor brought her two children, Karine, age 10, and Clayton, 6. “My daughter fell in love with women’s soccer that night,” she says. Taylor also became close friends with another single mother whose daughter played on Karine’s softball team. The two women now regularly carpool and help each other with childcare.

“I’m able to pick her daughter up if she can’t, whether because of work or a medical appointment, and vice versa,” Taylor explained. “It’s hard being a single parent and it’s just good to have someone else to lean on and bond with.”

The ParkScore index reported significant increases in park investment for 2023. Across all ParkScore cities, average park spending per resident increased to $124, up from last year’s $108 and reaching a ParkScore-era high. ParkScore reports investment per resident as a three-year moving average, so totals for 2023 are based on 2021-2023 city budgets. Trust for Public Land attributes the increased investment to heightened awareness among policymakers and local residents about the many ways parks serve as vital community infrastructure, especially during emergencies like the COVID-19 pandemic. Local governments are also taking advantage of federal stimulus funding to launch major park projects. Previous research found that virtually every city included in the ParkScore index leveraged parks as testing centers, personal protective equipment distribution hubs, or emergency food service centers at the height of the pandemic.


Washington, DC, was rated the best big-city park system in the United States for the fourth consecutive year. The city scored well on all ParkScore rating factors. Twenty-four percent of land in the District of Columbia is reserved for parks, among the highest in the United States. The District also outperformed on ParkScore’s park access and park equity metrics. Residents of Washington, DC, neighborhoods where most residents identify as Black, Latino, Indigenous and Native American, or Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have access to about the same amount of park space as residents of neighborhoods where most of the population identifies as white.

By contrast, among all ParkScore cities, neighborhoods where most residents identify as people of color have access to an average of 45 percent less park space than residents of predominately white neighborhoods. Similarly, ParkScore city residents in low-income neighborhoods have access to 45 percent less park space than residents in high-income neighborhoods, on average.

“We’re honored to receive this top ranking for a fourth consecutive year from Trust for Public Land, recognizing our world-class parks throughout the nation’s capital,” said Washington D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser. “In all eight wards of the District of Columbia, our parks system reflects our commitment to equity and accessibility – ensuring that everyone feels welcome and can access great parks and recreational facilities in and close to their neighborhoods.”

Irvine continues to climb the ParkScore index rankings, finishing fourth for the second consecutive year and matching its all-time high. Irvine ranked eighth in 2022. Irvine’s surge is driven by significant increases in park investment, as the city continues progress toward creating its planned “Great Park” on the site of the former El Toro Marine Corps Air Station.

Irvine scored well on other ParkScore index measures, including park access. Irvine offers 93 percent of residents access to a park or open space within a 10-minute walk of home. San Francisco (seventh place) and Boston (twelfth) remain the only ParkScore cities to provide 10-minute walk access to 100 percent of local residents. The national ParkScore park-access average is 76 percent.

Other major ParkScore movers this year include Gilbert, Arizona (+33 to sixty-seventh); Arlington, TX (+27 to forty-seventh); Richmond, VA (+17 to twenty-second) and Nashville, TN, (+15 to seventy-eighth).

Boise defended its title as the best park system for dogs, with a nation-leading 7.6 dog parks per 100,000 residents, outscoring Portland, Oregon, and Henderson, Nevada. St. Paul received top marks for basketball hoops, Las Vegas scored best for playgrounds, and Boston earned top marks for splashpads and other water features.


The annual ParkScore® index ranks park systems in the 100 most populous U.S. cities and is widely considered the gold standard for park evaluation. ParkScore rankings are based equally on five factors:

  • Park access measures the percentage of residents living within a 10-minute walk of a park.
  • Park equity compares per capita park space and 10-minute-walk park access in communities of color vs. white communities and in low-income neighborhoods versus high-income neighborhoods. Park systems score higher if disparities are minimal or non-existent.
  • Park acreage is based on a city’s median park size and the percentage of city area dedicated to parks.
  • Park investment measures park spending per resident.
  • Park amenities assesses the availability of six popular park features: basketball hoops; off-leash dog parks; playgrounds; splashpads and other water-play structures; recreation and senior centers, and restrooms.

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

Rank                       City                     ParkScore (Max 100)

  1.   Washington, DC.                   84.8

2.  Minneapolis, MN.                  82.5

3. St. Paul, MN.                           81.6

4. Irvine, CA.                                80.1

5. Arlington, VA.                         79.2

6. Seattle, WA.                             77.4

7. San Francisco, CA.                  76.5

8. Cincinnati, OH.                       75.8

9. Portland, OR.                           74.0

10. Chicago, IL.                             71.8

The ParkScore index uses advanced GIS (Geographic Information Systems) and spatial analysis to evaluate park accessibility. Instead of measuring distance to a local park, the rating system’s GIS technology considers the location of park entrances and physical obstacles to access. For example, if residents are separated from a nearby park by a major highway, the ParkScore index does not count the park as accessible to those residents, unless there is a bridge, underpass, or easy access point across the highway.

Municipal leaders use ParkScore information to guide park improvement efforts, studying park access on a block-by-block basis and pinpointing the areas where new parks are needed most. The ParkScore website, www.tpl.org/parkscore, is free and available to the public, empowering residents to hold their elected leaders accountable for achieving equitable access to quality parks for all.

About Trust for Public Land

Trust for Public Land (TPL) is a national nonprofit that works to connect everyone to the benefits and joys of the outdoors. As a leader in equitable access to the outdoors, TPL works with communities to create parks and protect public land where they are needed most. Since 1972, TPL has protected more than 4 million acres of public land, created more than 5,420 parks, trails, schoolyards, and iconic outdoor places, raised $94 billion in public funding for parks and public lands, and connected nearly 9.7 million people to the outdoors. To learn more, visit tpl.org.