As state and municipal leaders continue reopening parks and open spaces as the world weathers the COVID-19 pandemic, The Trust for Public Land announced Plano earned the highest ranking among area cities on the annual 2020 ParkScore index.
The nonprofit organization reported progress for parks across the nation but also warned that city park systems have reached a critical tipping point, as widening inequities, inequitable park access, and COVID-related budget cuts risk irreversible damage in 2020 and beyond.
“When stay-at-home orders permitted, people increasingly turned to parks, trails, and public open spaces to connect with nature, exercise, and enhance their mental and physical health,” President and CEO of the Trust for Public Land Diane Regas said.
“Residents deeply value parks, but continued inequity and the risk of future budget cuts threaten severe damage to the park systems that make many cities so livable.”
Area parks, trails, and golf courses are mostly open, although park amenities, such as playgrounds and restrooms, are mostly closed.
According to the Trust for Public Land’s ninth annual ParkScore index, Minneapolis, Minnesota, has the best city park system in the country. The city pulled slightly ahead of 2019 champion Washington, DC, largely because of new park acquisitions and strategic expansions. DC fell to second, and St. Paul, Minnesota, finished third. The annual ParkScore Index evaluates park systems in the 100 most populous U.S. cities.
Plano remains the highest-ranking area city park system, while Arlington recorded the most progress in this year’s ParkScore index.
Plano received high marks for its large median park size of 13.5 acres, more than double the national ParkScore average of 5.2 acres. Plano was also the only area city to receive above-average marks for park access. According to ParkScore, 75% of Plano residents live within a 10-minute walk of a park.
“We understand the importance of fostering a walkable community, and here in Plano our parks and trails are well distributed. People are more likely to use public park and trail systems when they feel protected from traffic and safe from crime and hazards,” Plano Parks and Recreation Director Ron Smith said.
“Therefore, we work hard to ensure these outdoor amenities are properly maintained to avoid injury and provide a safe environment for all.”
Nationally, only 72 percent of ParkScore city residents meet the 10-minute standard.