The ParkServe® database

Detailed information about city parks in the U.S.

The Trust for Public Land built a comprehensive database of local parks in nearly 14,000 cities, towns, and communities. We used census-defined urban areas to define where to collect and create local data for cities, towns, and communities. For each city, town, and community, geographic boundaries were obtained from the U.S. Census 2010 Places geospatial dataset and associated population estimates are derived from Esri’s 2020 U.S. Demographic. The team attempted to contact each city, town, and community with a request for their parks data. If no GIS data was provided, the team created GIS data for the place based on available resources, such as park information from municipal websites, GIS data available from counties and states, and satellite imagery.

Cities, towns, and communities were then emailed a link to view the park data compiled in their area to verify the boundaries and attributes of the parks in the database through our custom web-based ParkReviewer™ application.

The 10-minute walk

For each park, the team created a 10-minute walkable service area using a nationwide walkable road network dataset provided by Esri. The analysis identifies physical barriers such as highways, train tracks, and rivers without bridges, and chooses routes without barriers. 

Using these 10-minute walk service areas, overall access statistics were generated for each park, place, and urban area included in the database, and then further disaggregated by several demographic variables – race/ethnicity, age, and income. In communities with an exceptionally small number of block groups, 10-minute walk demographic calculations are not available.
 
All calculated population statistics are based on 2020 U.S. Census Block Group estimates provided by Esri.

Park priority areas 

All populated areas in a city that fall outside of a 10-minute walk service area are assigned a level of park priority, based on a comprehensive index of six equally weighted demographic and environmental metrics:

  • Population density*
  • Density of low income households* – which are defined as households with income less than 75 percent of the urban area median household income
  • Density of people of color*
  • Community health – a combined index based on the rate of poor mental health and low physical activity from the 2020 CDC PLACES census tract dataset
  • Urban heat islands – surface temperature at least 1.25o greater than city mean surface temperature from The Trust for Public Land, based on Landsat 8 satellite imagery
  • Pollution burden - Air toxics respiratory hazard index from 2020 EPA EJScreen

*Based on 2020 US block groups provided by Esri

Optimal locations for a new park 

For each city, town and community, we display up to 5 optimized locations where new parks could make the biggest impact on the 10-minute walk. We create a 10-minute walk service area for all locations outside of a 10-minute walk of an existing park, and then each optimized location is ranked by the number of residents within a 10-minute walk that currently live outside of a 10-minute walk to a park. Cities and towns are provided up to 5 optimal locations, depending on the amount of park need and the size of the community. Heat-influenced optimized points show where a new park would serve people that do not currently live within a 10-minute walk of a park, and also live in the hottest heat islands in the city.

ParkServe contextual data 

The ParkServe mapping platform now hosts a suite of data to visualize contextual information about communities and their parks:

  • Park Amenities: these crowd-sourced trails and playground data were retrieved from Open Street Map (OSM) in February of 2021 and clipped to ParkServe park boundaries. Trail data were augmented with USGS transportation trails data 
  • Equity: block groups are shown with a range of values relative to each urban area. Two datasets provide a set of context information:
    • Percent low income households (<75 percent urban area income), percent people of color, percent children (under age 19), percent seniors (over 64), and population density are created from Esri 2020 demographic block groups
    • Percent adults with less than high school education and percent people living in linguistically isolated households are provided by 2020 EPA EJScreen
  • Health: the CDC PLACES dataset by census tract is used to show the prevalence of the two metrics described below, with values shown relative to the urban area.
    • Poor mental health: Respondents aged ≥18 years who report 14 or more days during the past 30 days during which their mental health was not good.
    • Lack of physical activity: Respondents aged ≥18 who answered “no” to the following question: “During the past month, other than your regular job, did you participate in any physical activities or exercises such as running, calisthenics, golf, gardening, or walking for exercise” 
  • Climate:
    • The Trust for Public Land’s Urban Heat Island dataset shows where Landsat 8 satellite imagery thermal reflectance values are hotter than 1.25 degrees over the average of the whole boundary (city/town, or urban area).
    • EPA EJScreen NATA respiratory hazard index metric is based on the 2014 National Air Toxics Assessment 
  • Schools: Schoolyards across the country are a great opportunity to expand 10-minute walk park access through joint-use agreements to ensure they are open to the community after school hours. School locations from the National Center for Education Statistics and their 10-minute walk service areas can be turned on to see how they could serve populations that currently do not have access to a park within a 10-minute walk.
  • ParkScore index – park acreage analysis: For the 100 largest cities, an analysis was conducted to assess the disparity in the amount of nearby park space per person in different communities according to race and income.

    • Race: Block groups in the highest quintile of percent people of color or percent white population, relative to the city. The metrics for people and neighborhoods of color reflect each of the Census-designated race/ethnicity groups: Black, Hispanic, Indigenous and Native American, Asian Americans, Pacific Islanders, multiple races, and other communities of color. All population statistics are based on 2020 U.S. Census Block Group estimates provided by Esri.
    • Income: Block groups in the highest quintiles of percent low-income households or percent high-income households. Low-income households are defined as <75 percent urban area income, high-income is >125 percent urban area income. Data provided by Esri Census Block Groups.
    • Park acres per person: calculated based on the available park space (acres) within a 10-minute walk of each census block group. 
    • The median park acres per person was compared between the race and income neighborhoods described above to determine park acreage disparity in the 2021 ParkScore Index

How can I use the ParkServe® database to learn about my city’s park system?

ParkServe can help you visualize your city’s park system and inform decisions by identifying areas most in need of a new park. You can access the ParkServe landing page at www.tpl.org/parkserve. Here, you can search for your city and view your city’s unique profile page. Listed on each city profile page you can find:
  

  • 10-minute walk park access statistics 
  • A demographic breakdown by age, race, and income of populations within a 10-minute walk of a park 
  • The proportion of city land used for parks and recreation 
  • The number of parks in your city 
  • A link to the web map for your city 

 
Please note: If you are not seeing 10-minute walk demographic breakdowns on a city’s profile page, it is either because the city you have chosen has no parks, or there is not enough demographic data available to us to provide reliable statistics. 

Parkserve Table Example

How do we define a park?

In order to accurately represent park access across large communities, we choose to emphasize open public access as the key criteria for inclusion in our database. We include a wide variety of parks, trails, and open space so long as there is no barrier to entry for any portion of the population.  
 
Examples of parks we include:

  • Publicly-owned local, state, and national parks, trails, and open space 
  • School with a joint-use agreement with the local government. 
  • Privately-owned parks that are managed for full public use 

Examples of parks we don’t include:

  • Parks in gated communities 
  • Private golf courses 
  • Private cemeteries 

What tools exist to aid in park planning?

The ParkServe mapping application is a great way to pinpoint specific areas in need of publicly accessible greenspace. To explore the map you can click on “See [city]’s Map.” You will be redirected to the mapping application where you can view: 
 

  • The location of all parks and greenspaces within the city 
  • The parts of the community located within a 10-minute walk service area of those parks 
  • Neighborhoods outside of a 10-minute walk to a park, prioritized using the “Park priority areas” description above.
  • “Optimal new park locations” that tell you where in your community a park would have the biggest impact on the 10-minute walk. (These are ranked based on the estimated increase of residents served).  

In addition to viewing this data in the city profile page and web map, you can also export a two-page PDF that provides a map of the entire community, as well as the 10-minute walk access statistics for the area of interest broken down by age, income, and race. You will find this option as you scroll below your city’s map to view the city-level report.

Parkserve Map Example

Lastly, the ParkServe mapping application provides a tool called ParkEvaluator™ to assist in city planning. This tool allows users to draw new parks and/or trails within a selected city and run an analysis to view how these parks affect the city’s park access statistics. This is a great resource for planning and visualizing how the addition of new parks might impact your community. For detailed instructions on how to use the tool, see this document:
https://parkserve.tpl.org/mapping/pdfs/ParkEvaluator_Instructions.pdf

 

How can I add missing parks or submit edits to the data?

If while looking through your city's Parkserve data page and city map that there is data missing such as a new park, we want to know! In the mapping application, you will see a white box with blue highlights in the bottom left hand corner that reads “Are we missing a park? Tell us!”

Parkserve Button Example

By clicking on this you will be given two options: To leave a general comment or question for us to answer, or to edit your city’s park data. If you choose to edit your city’s park data, you will be directed to a mapping application, the ParkReviewer. Here you can submit edits to us directly, and after a review by our team, they will be published to the ParkServe platform. Details on using the ParkReviewer can be found in the help menu in the upper right corner of the ParkReviewer application.