Columbus parks system ranked 55th in nation among largest cities
Columbus slipped in an annual ranking of parks across the United States, falling behind other cities in Ohio.
Although its overall score improved from last year, Columbus fell from 53rd to 55th in the annual ranking of park systems in the nation’s 100 largest cities by the nonprofit Trust for Public Land.
Cincinnati, by comparison, placed fourth, while Cleveland and Toledo placed 23rd and 49th, respectively.
“Our score improved from last year, but our ranking dropped two spots because other cities may have seen their score increase even more than Columbus’s,” said Rosalie Hendon, planner. environment at the Columbus Parks and Recreation Department.
Each city’s ranking, or ParkScore Index, is based on five factors:
- The percentage of residents living within a 10-minute walk of a park.
- The median size of a city’s park and the percentage of the city’s total area devoted to parks.
- Park expenditure per capita.
- Park amenities, including basketball hoops, dog parks, playgrounds, “splash pads” and other water features, recreation and senior citizen centers, and restrooms.
- Equity, or the distribution of parks and park acres according to race and income.
How does the Columbus park system compare to others in major cities?
Columbus scores about average in park access, according to the Trust for Public Land, a national nonprofit that says it works to protect the land as parks and open space.
About 71% of Columbus residents live within a 10-minute walk of a park, a three-point increase from last year. The median among the 100 largest cities in the United States is 75%.
The city also scores well when it comes to the amount of land dedicated to parks. That figure stands at 10%, which the trust says is within the average for major cities.
“We have in our capital budget at least $1 million each year, if not a little more, dedicated to acquisitions,” Hendon said. “It’s just our capital, and we also seek several large grants each year to develop trails and purchase conservation properties from the state.
“Every year we grow. Not a year goes by without us acquiring land.”
Room for improvement
However, Columbus lags in a few areas, according to the nonprofit’s report.
Parks spending in Ohio’s capital is $95 per capita, compared to a national average of $97. The nonprofit also claims that Columbus is below average when it comes to amenities.
For example, there are plenty of basketball hoops in Columbus — 6.8 per 10,000 people — but not enough dog parks, wading pools and recreation centers, according to the nonprofit. (City of Columbus school playgrounds and basketball hoops are included in the count.)
Tim Moloney, executive director of Metro Parks Columbus and Franklin County, said one of his concerns with the report is that the Trust for Public Land does not include parks in the Metro Parks system outside of Columbus. .
“Sharon Woods is not incorporated in the City of Columbus. Therefore, Sharon Woods is not measured at all,” Moloney said. “Battelle Darby is another great example.”
The trust also disregards the city’s greenway system, according to Moloney.
“The Olentangy Trail, which runs through Columbus, welcomes over a million visitors a year,” Moloney said. “Because this is a linear trail that crosses multiple jurisdictions, it does not appear on their measure.
“Each community is unique and uses a few standard metrics to measure its output…some just don’t apply to certain parts of the country,” he said.
Washington DC earned the top spot on the trust’s list, which isn’t surprising given the National Mall and the parks around the nation’s capital’s many memorials. St. Paul, Minnesota was second, followed by Arlington, Virginia and Cincinnati.
Cincinnati’s fourth place finish marks an improvement from eighth place last year and is the first time Queen City has made the top five.
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