The District and Arlington boast some of the nation’s top and most-accessible park systems, but they lost a bit of ground over the past year, according to an annual report released Wednesday.
The Trust for Public Land — a nonprofit group that advocates for parks in neighborhoods across the nation — looked at park systems in the nation’s 100 largest cities and determined that Washington, D.C., and Arlington have the fourth- and sixth-best park systems, respectively.
While the study’s researchers said the high rankings were signs of robust park systems, both the District and Arlington saw a drop in their ranking compared with last year. In 2016, the District had the country’s third-best park system, while Arlington ranked No. 4. Arlington County is treated as a city for the purposes of the study.
Alexandra Hiple, a research associate at the Trust for Public Land, said the drop in local rankings is a result of San Francisco and Portland, Ore., seeing a boost in their park offerings, as opposed to D.C. and Arlington seeing a decline in offerings.
“Both D.C. and Arlington are really great park cities, but other cities like San Francisco are really taking a proactive approach to improving their systems,” Hiple said. “Cities need to be thinking creatively and proactively about how they can re-create their park system to stay on top.”
Minneapolis topped the list, followed by St. Paul, Minn., and San Francisco. San Francisco, according to the study, is the first city to have 100 percent of its residents living within a 10-minute walk of a park. Fort Wayne, Ind., and Indianapolis were at the bottom of the list.
In the District, 97 percent of residents live within a 10-minute walk of a park, according to the report. The city government spends $270 per resident on parks, and 22 percent of the city is considered a park, which includes land under federal jurisdiction. In Arlington County, 98 percent of residents live within a 10-minute walk of a park.
However, the county reserves 11 percent of its land for parks, which is low among cities with top park systems but above the national average of 9 percent.
Jane Rudolph, director of Arlington’s Department of Parks and Recreation, said the county will be releasing preliminary recommendations in July to update its Public Spaces Master Plan, which serves as its blueprint for its park system.
“Parks are very important to our community and we are always looking for ways to improve access and amenities,” Rudolph wrote in an email. “We look forward to learning more from San Francisco and Portland to see how we can continue to be innovative.”
Keith A. Anderson, director of the D.C. Department of Parks and Recreation, called the city’s ranking “truly an honor.”
Washington also ranked highly for its park amenities and facilities. The city has four basketball hoops and 1.8 playgrounds for every 10,000 residents. It also has 1.7 dog parks for every 100,000 residents and 2.3 recreation or senior centers for every 20,000 residents.
By comparison, Arlington has 4.1 basketball hoops and 4.1 playgrounds for every 10,000 residents. It has 3.5 dog parks for every 100,000 residents and 1.5 senior and recreation centers for every 20,000 residents.
Here are the Top 10, according to the Trust for Public Land report:
1. Minneapolis 2. St. Paul, Minn.
3. San Francisco
4. Washington, D.C.
5. Portland, Ore.
6. Arlington, Va.
7. (tie) Irvine, Calif.
7. (tie) New York
9. Madison, Wis.