How Did DFW Area Score on Annual Park System Rating?

Dallas—Plano rose to 15th on The Trust for Public Land’s annual ParkScore index, which ranks park systems in the 100 largest U.S. cities. Plano finished first among the six area municipalities evaluated by ParkScore.

Dallas ranked second the region at 52nd overall, a slight dip from last year’s 49th place finish. Arlington, Garland, Fort Worth, and Irving also dropped slightly, but changes were mostly due to moves made by other cities, not significant changes to local park systems.

DFW Metro Area ParkScore Results, Summary Table
 2019 Rank2018 Rank2017 Rank
Plano15th18th17th
Dallas52nd49th50th
Arlington68th63rd59th
Garland80th72nd63rd
Irving88th82nd85th
Fort Worth89th82nd79th

 “Mayors and city park directors across the United States recognize that quality, close-to-home parks are essential to communities. Parks bring neighbors together and help cities fight climate change. Parks are proven to improve physical and mental health and get children and adults to put down their phones and enjoy the outdoors,” says  Diane Regas, President and CEO of The Trust for Public Land. 


PARKSCORE INDEX DETAILS 

ParkScore rankings are based equally on four factors: park access, which measures the percentage of residents living within a10-minute walk of a park; park acreage, which is based on a city’s median park size and the percentage of city area dedicated to parks; park investment, which measures park spending per resident; and park amenities, which counts 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.  

Plano received high marks for its large median park size of 13.5 acres, more than double the national ParkScore average of 5.0 acres. Plano was also the only the area city to receive above-average marks for park access.

According to ParkScore, 75% of local residents live within a 10-minute walk of a park. Nationally, only 72% of ParkScore city residents meet the 10-minute standard.However, Plano’s overall ranking was hurt by low scores for park amenities, including dog parks, recreation and senior centers, and splashpads.


Dallas features a large median park size of 7.7 acres, which is above the national ParkScore median of 5.0 acres. The city ranked close to the national ParkScore average for park access and park investment. However, its overall ranking was hurt by comparatively low scores for park amenities, especially dog parks and restrooms. 


Like Plano and Dallas, Arlington also features a large median park size (12.6 acres), and the city spends $92 per resident on parks, above the national ParkScore average. However, only 57 percent of Arlington residents live within a 10-minute walk of a park. Arlington’s ParkScore was also hurt by low marks for park amenities, with below average marks for basketball courts, playgrounds, restrooms, and splashpads. 


Garland followed the same ParkScore pattern, with a large median park size (9.6 acres) but below-average marks for park access (62% of residents within a 10-minute walk). Garland’s ParkScore was also hurt by below-average marks for park amenities. The city offers no dog parks or splashpads. 


Irving reported a high number of playgrounds per resident (3.1 per 10,000, above the national ParkScore average of 2.5). However, the city’s ParkScore ranking was negatively affected by below-average park access marks. Only 62% of residents live within a 10-minute walk of a park, compared to the national ParkScore average of 72%. 

Fort Worth received above-average scores for median park size (7.7 acres) but also received among the nation’s lowest scores for park amenities. The city provides only 1.5 basketball hoops per 10,000 residents, half the national ParkScore city average of 3.0. It also operates only 0.1 splashpads per 100,000 residents, well under the ParkScore median of 1.2. 

WHY RANK CITY PARK SYSTEMS? 

Today, there are 23,727 parks in the 100 largest U.S. cities, yet 11.2 million people in those cities do not have a park within a 10-minute walk of home, according to The Trust for Public Land.  

“As few as 8,300 new parks in places where they are needed most would close the gap in park access in our 100 largest cities. At current rates of investment in park creation, it will take more than 50 years to build enough new parks to fill this gap,” says Breece Robertson, Chief Research and Innovation Officer at The Trust for Public Land. “But because we now know exactly where to site the parks, we know the first 1,500 could solve the problem for nearly 5 million people. That shows us the way forward, and we owe it to our children to rise to the challenge.” 

“Solving the problem of park access is exactly why The Trust for Public Land launched the 10-Minute Walk Mayor’s campaign,” says Adrian Benepe, Director of National Programs at The Trust for Public Land. “Decision-makers at every level must rally everyday Americans behind the urgent need for park equity in our communities.” 

In an endorsement of the 10-minute walk goal, more than 250 mayors have joined the 10-Minute Walk Mayor’s Campaign, pledging to adopt long-term, system-wide strategies to ensure every resident has a quality park close to home.  

Through voter-approved initiatives like Great Outdoors Colorado and California’s Proposition 68, citizens are generating new sources of public funding at the state level to accelerate the pace of improvement for parks and open space in their communities. At the federal level, leaders are considering infrastructure investments in the trillions—a percentage of which could be spent on improving park equity. 

 “These recent developments demonstrate that the change we need is possible. It is happening now. Civic leaders, elected officials, experts, and activists are coming together behind the power of parks to benefit health, climate, and communities,” adds Diane Regas. 

NATIONAL TRENDS: INVESTMENTS IN PLAYGROUNDS AND PICKLEBALL  

From a national perspective, investment in parks reached $8.25 billion among the 100 ParkScore cities in 2019. This funding contributed to the increase in park access reported nationwide. 

The ParkScore index also reported a “Pickleball” breakout, as the number of ping-pong/tennis hybrid courts soared 38% over last year. Pickleball is popular among all ages and is especially beloved by seniors, because it offers a low-impact and fun opportunity for physical activity. The ParkScore index also reported greater availability of playgrounds and basketball courts, as parks departments invested in new amenities and worked in partnership with local leaders to increase access to school facilities after hours and on weekends.  

Boise defended its title as the best park system for dogs, with a nation-leading 5.7 dog parks per 100,000 residents. Norfolk, VA, received top marks for basketball hoops, Madison scored best for playgrounds and Boston and Cleveland tied for Splashpads and other water features. 

Oklahoma City settled at the bottom of the ParkScore list, ranking just below Mesa, AZ, and Charlotte, NC.  

THE RANKINGS 

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

RankCityPark Score (max 100)
1Washington, DC83.8
2Saint Paul, MN83.2
3Minneapolis, MN81.8
4Arlington, VA81.3
5Portland, OR79.7
6Irvine, CA79.2
7San Francisco, CA79.0
8Cincinnati, OH78.3
9New York, NY76.0
10Chicago, IL75.4

The lowest-ranking park systems are:

90Lubbock, TX33.2
91Baton Rouge, LA33.0
92Fresno, CA31.3
93Hialeah, FL31.1
94Laredo, TX30.1
95Mesa, AZ29.5
96Charlotte, NC28.9
97Oklahoma City28.6

Fort Wayne and Indianapolis declined to participate in ParkScore 2019 and were not ranked.  

Gilbert, AZ, was not ranked because the necessary data were unavailable. 

The ParkScore Index uses advanced GIS (Geographic Information Systems) computer mapping technology to create digital maps evaluating 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. The Trust for Public Land collaborated with GIS industry leader Esri on GIS design and implementation. 

Municipal leaders use ParkScore data to guide park improvement efforts, studying park access on a block-by-block basis and pinpointing the areas where new parks are needed most. 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.