It’s the country’s biggest competition for park systems, and Minneapolis keeps taking gold.
The Trust for Public Land, which scores big cities on various park measures, on Wednesday awarded Minneapolis the top score among the nation’s 100 large city park systems. St. Paul ranked second.
It’s Minneapolis’ sixth year at No. 1. In 2015, the Twin Cities tied at the top spot.
“Today, we’re confirming something we already know,” Park Board President Brad Bourn said at the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Park in south Minneapolis where the results were announced Wednesday. “The Minneapolis Park Board touches everybody’s lives every single day, and we are one of the biggest reasons why people decide to live, work, play and invest in the city of Minneapolis.”
The city’s parks and recreation facilities scored 84.2 points out of 100 on the Trust for Public Land’s grading system — down from 87.5 points last year. St. Paul accumulated 82.4 points. The scoring considers factors that measure residents’ access to parks, from total acreage to the number of off-leash dog parks per capita. This year rankings also took into account the number of restrooms and splashpads.
Mike Hahm, St. Paul’s park director, called the national achievement a “communitywide accomplishment.”
“If we’re providing these same services and nobody is showing up or nobody values them, they’re irrelevant,” he said. “And that’s certainly not the case here.”
According to the Trust for Public Land, Minneapolis spends $249 per capita on parks and St. Paul spends $218 per capita — up from last year by a few dollars.
In the close competition, St. Paul has more amenities than Minneapolis. Its 7.8 basketball hoops per 10,000 residents is more than double the rate in Minneapolis. St. Paul has more splashpads and spraygrounds. And provides 10.5 restrooms per 10,000 residents, compared with 6.8 in Minneapolis.
But Minneapolis has more dog parks, playgrounds and recreation centers per capita. Its median park size — 5.7 acres — is bigger than the median size in St. Paul — 3.2 acres.
As far as residents’ proximity to parks, the Twin Cities’ data didn’t change much from last year. Ninety-seven percent of Minneapolis residents and 96 percent of St. Paul residents live within a 10-minute walk of a park. San Francisco, ranked fifth, is the only city where all residents live within a 10-minute walk of a park.
“Both organizations do really well in planning and maintaining their work,” said Charlie McCabe, director of the Center for City Park Excellence at the Trust for Public Land, a national nonprofit that works with public and nonprofit agencies to protect parklands.
Yolanda Taylor, a local schoolteacher watching over a gaggle of active 3- to 5-year-olds at the MLK park, said she has been impressed with all the work the Minneapolis parks system has done to attract more visitors and make the playground fun for children.
“The playground is now off the street, it’s more colorful and safer,” Taylor said. “They made a lot of good changes.”