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Philly jumps up in ranking of country’s best park systems

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95 percent of residents live within walking distance of a park

Photo by R. Kennedy for Visit Philadelphia

When it comes to park amenities and accessibility, Philly is making some great strides.

An annual report published by the Trust for Public Land ranked Philly’s park system 19th out of 100 major U.S. cities. That’s a big jump from previous years, when Philly parks came in 32nd in 2017, and 30th in 2018.

The rankings are based on four major aspects including accessibility, investment, park size, and amenities. DC came in first place this year with a parkscore of 83.8 out of a possible 100 points, whereas Philly had a 67.7 parkscore.

That’s a 7.7 point increase from last year’s park score (60 points)—a big improvement in a city where the administration has focused heavily on boosting the park system over the past few years.

Kenney launched his Rebuild program in 2017, in which he promised to invest $500 million in Philly’s libraries, recreation centers and parks. A large chunk of that money was to come from the controversial sweetened beverage tax—also known as the soda tax—which passed in 2016. After legal battles over the tax were largely resolved last year, Rebuild made its first significant step forward with Heitzman Recreation Center becoming the first out of 64 projects to receive funding and upgrades.

Here’s how individual aspects of Philly’s park system rank against the total 100 cities:

  • Access—how many residents are within a 10-minute walk of a park: 95th
  • Investment—parks spending per resident: 60th
  • Acreage—the median park size, as well as how much of Philly is taken up by parks: 47.5th
  • Amenities—things like basketball hoops, playground equipment, bathrooms and more: 60th

The highlight of Philly’s score this year is accessibility. The Trust for Public Land notes that 95 percent of city residents live within a 10-minute walk of a park, well above the national average of 54 percent. That percentage stays the same regardless of demographic changes like income, age, and race.

However, there are some ways in which Philly falls short, namely, the park system’s acreage. Only 13 percent of city land is used for parks, two percentage points lower than the national median, according to the report.

The Trust for Public Land also included a map of the city’s 560-park system, with highlights where they would suggest a new park be created.

Trust for Public Land, via ParkEvaluator