Irvine had the nation’s fourth-best parks, according to the Trust for Public Land’s annual ParkScore index.

The index is presented as something of a friendly competition between the 100 most populous cities in the country, and a strong general barometer of which municipalities are investing in park space, amenities and access. The index has also begun in recent years to evaluate equity, or the size and number of parks and amenities in neighborhoods with large populations of low-income residents and residents of color.

The top 10 cities, based on their index ranking between 1-100, were Washington, D.C. (84.8); Minneapolis (82.5); St. Paul (81.6); Irvine, (80.1); Arlington, Virginia (79.2); Seattle (77.4); San Francisco (76.5); Cincinnati, (75.8); Portland, Oregon. (74); and Chicago (71.8).

Cities were ranked in this year’s ParkScore index based on the percentage of residents living within a 10-minute walk of a park, park equity, a city’s median park size and the percentage of city area dedicated to parks, park spending per resident and the availability of six particular amenities: basketball hoops, off-leash dog parks, splashpads and other water-play structures, recreation and senior centers, playgrounds and restrooms.

Alongside its annual index, the Trust for Public Land issued a new research report, “The Power of Parks to Strengthen Community,” that found that residents of cities ranking in the top quarter of the ParkScore index were 60% more likely to have volunteered in the past 12 months than residents of lower-ranking cities.

Residents of higher-ranking cities were also 26% more likely to form friendships with people in different socio-economic groups, a proven strategy toward increasing economic mobility and reducing inequality.

Among the 100 ParkScore cities indexed, there was on average 45% less park space in low-income neighborhoods and neighborhoods where most residents identify as people of color than in more affluent neighborhoods and predominantly white neighborhoods.


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