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Here’s how Philly’s parks compare to other U.S. cities

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Why does Philly keep falling in the rankings?

People lounge on the banks of the Schuylkill River underneath cherry blossom trees.
Philly’s park system is 32nd in the nation, according to a new Trust for Public Land report.
via Flickr/pml2008

Philly’s Fairmount Parks system is consistently touted as one of the city’s greatest and greenest treasures, an immense 9,200-acre collection of parks scattered throughout Philadelphia. But while it’s impressive in its own right, a new report reveals that the city’s parks system may have some catching up to do when it comes to other metros in the U.S.

The Trust for Public Land released its sixth annual ParkScore rating this morning, and announced that Philadelphia had dropped 10 spots from last year, falling to No. 32 on the 100-city list and tying with Henderson, Nevada and Honolulu, Hawaii. The ranking looks at the local park systems in the 100 largest U.S. cities and comes up with its findings using park acreage, accessibility, and investment and amenities.

Minneapolis took the top spot in this year’s ranking.

Philly’s fall is mostly due to the drop in the city’s Parks and Recreation department budget, combined with the upward move in other cities, explains Chris McCabe, researcher at the Trust for Public Land’s Center for City Park Excellence.

In Philly, the city spends $59 per person on parks, while the U.S. average is $80. Last year, Philly spent $65 per person on parks. This number is calculated by dividing the parks department’s annual budget by the city’s population.

“In Philadelphia, you have amazing systems like the Fairmount Park system, all of the work along the Schuylkill River, and you have the Center City District working on the elevated Rail Park—you have a lot going on, it’s just that city could work to increase its spending,” says McCabe.

In addition, Philly’s parks have a smaller median park size of 3.6 acres, compared to the national average of 5 acres. McCabe notes that Independence National Historical Park was included in the city’s calculations.

But it wasn’t all bad news for Philly’s parks. For example, the analysis found that 93 percent of Philly residents can walk to a park within 10 minutes from where they live. “That’s really amazing compared to a lot of the cities,” McCabe notes. The average score for cities was 66 percent.

McCabe also hints that it’s very likely Philly could move up in the rankings in years to come, given the amount of parks and funding that are potentially in the pipeline. He points to the good chunk of funding raised from the soda tax that has been slated to go toward the Rebuild program, which will aim to spruce up the city’s aging recreation centers, parks, and libraries.

“The soda tax [is] going to help kick in and help the park system,” McCabe said, “and help with the rehab and improvement of amenities.”

For more stats and comparisons, head over to ParkScore’s full ranking and database.