Yay for parks: Philly’s Park System jumps to 15th Spot on Annual ParkScore Index
The Trust for Public Land released its annual list of the country’s metropolitan park systems.
As warmer weather and cabin fever draws local residents out of their homes during quarantine, only a handful of places remain open where people are actually able to safely spend time outside. Our city’s parks and playgrounds have acted as an oasis for those seeking vitamin D and refuge.
This makes Philly recent strides in park improvement a particularly relevant feat.
The Trust for Public Land has announced that Philly has jumped to the15th spot from #19 on the Annual ParkScore Index, a yearly examination of the country’s metropolitan areas park systems. Minneapolis, Minnesota sits in first place with the most illustrious parks, followed by Washington D.C, also known for its vibrant greenery.
What is the ParkScore Index?
So how exactly does The Trust for Public Land its parks list?
The rankings are dependent on four factors: how many residents live within a 10-minute walk of a park, the median size and percent of landcover reserved for parks, park spending per resident, and the amenities alongside a park (i.e. courts and other recreational features).
How did Philly improve its score?
Philly’s ParkScore jump was due to continuous increases in the city’s parks and rec. budget from the years 2018 to 2020, done through the “rebuild initiative”. The ParkScore index report points to an overall increase in spending for parks per person for the year, jumping from $84 in 2018, to $123 in 2019 and finally up to $138 in 2020. In addition to spending, our city’s park accessibility boasts impressive stats with 95% of residents living with in a ten-minute walk of a park, while the national average sits at just 72%.
A fair question is whether it is likely we will continue to see Philadelphia stay on this upwards trajectory or fall behind in the coming years. With looming budget cuts due to COVID-19 impacts, our parks and rec spending will see an 18% decrease as the recent fiscal year budget reports show. We’ve already seen local government slash climate change fighting positions such as the Zero Waste and Litter Cabinet, but time will tell how the coming cuts will actually affect the quality and amount of park spaces.
Diane Regas, the President and CEO of The Trust for Public Land stated in the report,
“Across the United States, 100 million people—including 27 million children—lack access to a quality park close to home. These inequities exist not only between cities but also within them. Low-income neighborhoods do not get their fair share of park investment, which is a missed opportunity to prevent long-term health and climate inequities”.
This makes our current stats particularly a feat for Philadelphia, as compared to the general lack of accessibility to parks across the nation we have been able to mitigate the disparity.
Fun fact: 13% of the city’s total landcover is dedicated to parks and rec!
Why this is important?
Aside from the aesthetic value they offer, parks enrich communities in visceral and meaningful ways, providing safe spaces and the therapeutic effects one gets from simply interacting with nature. Parks, greens spaces, and transformed lots overall have been shown to reduce violent crimes in at-risk communities and provide free restorative services to the surrounding eco system.
As Sadiya Muqueeth, Director of Community Health at the Trust for Public Land, put it, “Parks are a critical part of health and wellness reducing anxiety, stress, and depression and improving physical health all the more necessary during this public health emergency…Sunlight, fresh air, exercise, and access to nature all have a positive effect on our physical health and emotional wellbeing”.
Now more than ever these priceless services are especially valued, as one of the few feasible places city residents can go for fresh air during the lockdown.
Of course, just as parks act as a place of sanctuary during such precarious times, we must remember to engage with them safely- check out our article on how to do just that if you missed it here!
Disclaimer: Philadelphia’s parks are still open, but many amenities like playgrounds and restrooms have been closed due to COVID-19 guidelines.