How does Austin’s park system compare to other U.S. cities?

Emma Morris has her photo taken beside the Zilker 100 sculpture, commissioned to honor Zilker Park’s 100th birthday. (TAMIR KALIFA/ AMERICAN-STATESMAN)

We’ve got Zilker Park (which celebrates its 100th birthday this year, by the way), the Barton Creek Greenbelt and a whole lot of parkland in between. But how does Austin stack up to the rest of the country on the Trust for Public Land’s ParkScore Index?

Middle of the pack, it turns out. Austin landed in 46th place among the 100 largest cities in the U.S. for its parks.

The trust gave us high scores for park acreage and dog parks, but low marks for park access, which is based on the percentage of population that lives within a 10-minute walk – or about half a mile – of a public park.

Check the nitty gritty here.

Minneapolis and Saint Paul held on to the top two places. Other Texas cities on the list were Plano (17th), Dallas (50th), Arlington (59th), Garland (63rd), San Antonio (69th), El Paso and Ft. Worth (tie for 79th), Houston (81st), Irving and Lubbock (tie for 85th), and Laredo (93rd).

In addition to the top 100 rankings, ParkScore also provides a one-to-five park bench rating. In 2017, three cities – Minneapolis, Saint Paul, and San Francisco – received the highest possible five-bench rating. Austin earned three park benches this year.

According to ParkScore, Austin’s median park size is 8.5 acres, above the national ParkScore average of 5.0. Austin also was recognized for operating 1.4 dog parks per 100,000 residents, compared to the national average of 0.9. The access issue, however, held us back. Only 54 percent of Austin residents live within a 10-minute walk of a park, compared to a national ParkScore average of 66 percent.

“Everyone in America deserves to live within a 10-minute walk of a park. Parks are proven to improve physical and mental health, increase property values, and bring neighbors together to nurture the personal bonds that make our communities special,” said Charlie McCabe, director of The Trust for Public Land’s Center for City Parks Excellence.

McCabe is the former executive director of the Austin Parks Foundation.


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