Ninety-seven percent of D.C. residents live within a half-mile of a park.
That ease of accessibility and the quality of the city’s parks earned the District the third spot on a list of the best cities for parks in the country, according to an annual ranking released Wednesday by the Trust for Public Land, a national organization that advocates for parks in neighborhoods across the country.
Minneapolis and St. Paul tied for first. After Washington, San Francisco and New York rounded out the top five on the list.
The organization’s ParkScore index, which examines parks in the nation’s 75 largest cities, looks at parks’ size, accessibility and amenities. It also considers the amount of money spent per resident on public lands.
The District’s third-place finish is an improvement over its sixth-place showing last year.
Peter Harnick, director of the Trust for Public Land’s Center for City Park Excellence, said the higher ranking has more to do with a change in the index’s criteria than concerted changes in the city’s parks.
In 2014, the rankings considered how many playgrounds per 10,000 residents a city contained. This year, the Trust for Public Land broadened the criteria to include amenities such as playgrounds, basketball hoops, dog parks and recreation centers.
D.C. doesn’t have as many playgrounds as some highly ranked cities — 1.8 per 10,000 residents, compared with 2.8 in Minneapolis — but it does have more basketball hoops than many others — four per 10,000 residents compared with 1.7 in Minneapolis.
“D.C. is short on playgrounds but strong on all the other facilities,” Harnick said.
The criteria take into account both federal and local parks that fall within the city’s boundaries. This gives the District, which is nearly 30 percent federal land, a boon in the rankings. In all, 21.9 percent of D.C. land is considered a park.
Keith A. Anderson, the acting director of the city’s Department of Parks and Recreation, said the agency was pleased with the ranking and “will continue to work to make the District of Columbia the best city for parks in the nation.”
D.C. spent $343 per resident on parks last year — more than any of the other cities on the list spent per resident by $78 — but that figure also includes money the federal government spends on the Mall, which largely serves tourists.
The median park size in the District is 0.8 acres, considerably smaller than almost every other city on the ParkScore list. New York’s median park size is 1.1 acres and Minneapolis has a median park size of 6.8 acres.
Charlotte and Fresno, Calif., tied for last place on the list of 75 cities. Charlotte spent $51 per resident on parks and Fresno spent $39.