What We Can Learn About a City by Mapping Its Parks

New data from the Trust for Public Land illuminates which neighborhoods offer excellent green space access ... and which really don't.

Ninety-four percent of people in Minneapolis live within a 10-minute walk of a park, a quick way of saying that the Minnesota city is woven with arguably the best green space of any large metro in the country. The parks there are plentiful, they're large (spanning more than 36,000 acres of the entire city), they have real amenities (2.9 playgrounds per every 10,000 residents), and the city actually spends money on them ($210 per resident per year).

All of this data comes from the Trust for Public Land, which released an updated annual ParkScore ranking today of the park systems in America's 50 largest cities. Minneapolis comes in at No. 1, based on a metric that accounts for park access, park size, and city investment and services. Viewed through the lens of its park space, Minneapolis has few pockets in serious need of new investment:

Trust for Public Land

On the above map, parks are colored in dark green, light green areas are well serviced by them, orange blocks have a "high" park need according to the Trust, and red patches have "very high need." To contrast that picture, here is Fresno, which is ranked last of the 50 largest cities:

Trust for Public Land

The few parks in Fresno clearly aren't accessible to large numbers of people, either because low population density means that fewer families live within 10 minutes of a park, or because major roads block their way there. The Trust's calculations don't measure park accessibility as the crow flies; rather, it takes into account the location of park entrances and the obstacles to getting there on foot.

Here is this year's Top 10, which differs in a few ways from last year. In that previous list, the Trust only looked at the 40 largest cities (leaving out No. 48 Minneapolis). Southern cities are conspicuously absent:

  • 1. Minneapolis
  • 2. New York
  • 3. Boston (tie)
  • 3. Sacrament (tie)
  • 3. San Francisco (tie)
  • 6. Washington, D.C.
  • 7. Portland
  • 8. Virginia Beach
  • 9. San Diego
  • 10. Seattle

The differences between them (and the bottom 10 cities) are best expressed on maps, all of which are available online here. But here are a few more:

No. 2 New York

Trust for Public Land

No. 7 Portland


Trust for Public Land

No. 38 Houston


Trust for Public Land

No. 47 Indianapolis


Trust for Public Land

About the Author

  • Emily Badger is a former staff writer at CityLab. Her work has previously appeared in Pacific StandardGOODThe Christian Science Monitor, and The New York Times. She lives in the Washington, D.C. area.