Minneapolis parks are on a winning streak.
The Trust for Public Land named the city’s parks and recreation facilities tops in the nation among 100 large city park systems in rankings released Wednesday. It’s Minneapolis’ fifth year at No. 1.
The closest competitor? St. Paul. (The two cities actually tied for tops in 2015.)
“It truly is an honor to be recognized,” Minneapolis Park Superintendent Jayne Miller said. “Minneapolis residents are very proud of the fact that we’re the No. 1 park system.”
Minneapolis scored 87.5 points on the Trust for Public Land’s grading system. St. Paul garnered 82.5 points. The evaluation considers factors that measure residents’ access to parks, from total acreage to the number of basketball hoops per capita.
Mike Hahm, St. Paul’s park director, said the national recognition for both of the Twin Cities is symbolic of strong park systems across Minnesota — and residents’ high expectations.
“We always want to do better. That’s what our community expects,” Hahm said. “To be able to hold down this top spot while other people have a lot more room to gain shows the quality of what we’re doing here locally.”
Minneapolis and St. Paul held off other cities, such as San Francisco, which jumped from fifth to third and became the first city where all residents live within a 10-minute walk of a park. Ninety-seven percent of Minneapolis residents and 96 percent of St. Paul residents live within a 10-minute walk of a park.
“For both cities, I love that they’re so accessible,” St. Paul resident Thomas Buan said. “I think it was said that you’re never really more than a 10-minute walk away from a park here in Minneapolis, and I’ve found that to be pretty true.” Buan works in Minneapolis.
The Twin Cities did well overall at a time when many large cities face maintenance backlogs and operations problems, 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.
“It’s community support that really helps thrive and make city parks systems really great, especially in Minneapolis and St. Paul,” McCabe said. “It can’t exist without public support.”
According to the Trust for Public Land, Minneapolis spends $233 per capita on parks and St. Paul spends $202 per capita.
In a head-to-head competition, Minneapolis has more dog parks, playgrounds and recreation centers per capita. Its median park size — 6.6 acres — is bigger than the median size in St. Paul — 3.7 acres.
But St. Paul wins on the court. Its 9.6 basketball hoops per capita is almost double the hoops per capita in Minneapolis.
Both cities are already looking to make more investments that will help them stay on top of the best parks list.
Minneapolis is investing more money in maintenance over 20 years, with emphasis on sprucing up parks located in poor and racially diverse neighborhoods. St. Paul is undertaking a review of its park and rec facilities to prioritize future investments. The city is also making an effort to add parks, plazas and gardens along the Green Line light rail.
Abdirahman Mukhtar, youth program manager at the Brian Coyle Community Center, said the Minneapolis parks system deserves the first-place honor because “They understand all Minneapolis residents.”
“A lot of the East Africans and new immigrants use soccer fields,” he said. “The fact that the Minneapolis park and rec was able to build new soccer fields allowed a lot of residents [to] use their facilities.”