When not being criticized as a swamp that must be drained, Washington is occasionally praised for its arboreal charms.
Now, it is official: The District took the top spot in a national survey of large U.S. cities with the best parks, closely trailed by Arlington at No. 4.
The District came in at No. 1, with a “ParkScore” of 83.8 out of 100. The report noted that 98 percent of D.C. residents live within a 10-minute walk of a park and 21 percent of the city is park land.
“D.C. is truly a city of parks that serve as hubs of activity and beauty for neighborhoods and provide substantial social, economic, and health benefits to our residents,” D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) said in a statement. “We’ve invested more than $200 million to ensure all residents have access to playgrounds, nature trails, and other public parks that have made D.C.’s park system the envy of cities across the nation.”
Arlington, meanwhile, scored an 81.3, earning top marks for its large number of basketball hoops — 7.8 per 10,000 residents — and dog parks, 3.5 per 100,000 residents. (Arlington is a county but is treated as a city for the purposes of the report).
The District leaped into first place after besting Minneapolis and St. Paul, which led the survey last year.
Charlie McCabe, director at the Center for City Park Excellence at the Trust for Public Land, credited an increase in amenities like basketball hoops and splash pads for the District’s gain. Money is the key to better parks, McCabe said, and some cities at the bottom of list that still are recovering from the Great Recession don’t have it.
“These cities are seeing good growth, a positive influx of population, more density, more tax revenue and more spending,” he said of the top scorers. “That is the bottom line.”
D.C. spends $270.40 per resident on parks, the survey found, while Arlington spends $267.23.
While the District has many federally funded parks, the city earned points for amenities largely found in its neighborhood parks, McCabe said.
These cities topped the list:
1. Washington, D.C. 83.8
2. Saint Paul, Minn. 83.2
3. Minneapolis 81.8
4. Arlington 81.3
5. Portland, Ore. 79.7
6. Irvine, Calif. 79.2
7. San Francisco 79.0
8. Cincinnati 78.3
9. New York 76.0
10. Chicago 75.4
Bottom of the list:
90. Lubbock, Texas 33.2
91. Baton Rouge 33.0
92. Fresno, Calif. 31.3
93. Hialeah, Fla. 31.1
94. Laredo, Texas 30.1
95. Mesa, Ariz. 29.5
96. Charlotte 28.9
97. Oklahoma City 28.6