Dallas Park System Climbs in National Ranking

Dallas Park System
Downtown Dallas | Image by Sean Pavone, Shutterstock

Dallas shot up this year’s ranking compiled by the nonprofit Trust for Public Land of the nation’s best park systems.

Among the 100 most populated cities in the U.S., Dallas climbed from No.53 to No.43 this year, according to The Dallas Morning News.

Trust for Public Land provided each city with a ParkScore, a data-driven measurement that awards points based on analyses of five categories: acreage, investment, amenities, access, and equity.

“Access,” for instance, is determined by the percentage of the city’s population living within a 10-minute walk from a park. “Investment” takes into account both public and nonprofit spending on parks and recreation, as well as the hours worked by volunteers.

Dallas scored more than 50 out of 100 possible points in acreage, investment, and access.

Some key findings in these categories include that 73% of Dallas residents live within a 10-minute walk from a park.

The larger impact of the “access” to green space is multifold. Not only does taking just 20 minutes in nature significantly lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol in the body, but it also makes it easier to lead an active lifestyle.

Obesity is one of the greatest health problems faced by Americans today, especially in Dallas.

Another interesting finding from Dallas’ ParkScore is that the city beats the national average in its spending on green space. A three-year average showed a per capita spending of $124 compared to $108 nationwide.

Yet Dallas’ highest-rated category was “equity” — 69 out of 100 points. This category compares the per capita park space and the number of parks within a 10-minute walk of low-income neighborhoods to that near high-income neighborhoods, among others.

Where Dallas fell short was its amenities, earning only 30 out of 100 points. The score takes into account park features used by residents of all ages, including splash pads, playgrounds, basketball courts, dog parks, as well as recreational and senior centers.

While all of these were relatively low-scoring, the biggest hit Dallas’ ranking took was for its number of bathrooms — 0.2 per 10,000 people for a score of 1 out of 100.

Although still quite a ways from No.19 Plano, which ranked highest in the Lone Star State, Dallas’ 10-spot bump is a much-needed nod to the City’s Park and Recreation Department.

As The Dallas Express has covered, City departments have been besieged by calamities brought on just as much by internal dysfunctions as by external malefactors. These include a backlogged permitting process, a rising homicide rate, an increasing vagrant and homeless population, and an alleged cyber ransomware attack.

Dallas’ Park and Recreation Department has avoided much of this drama, despite having the highest number of job vacancies, the worst turnover rate, and a budget overspent by an estimated $2.5 million.

As The Dallas Express reported, one major contributor to Dallas’ greening is the nonprofit Parks for Downtown Dallas, which has been supporting the City in creating public parks since 2015.

More parks are likely on the way, as Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson named Garrett Boone the city’s first-ever greening czar in April, as The Dallas Express reported.

Together with the Park and Recreation Department and the local Trust for Public Land team, Boone is reviewing a list of vacant City-owned properties that might be converted into parks, according to the DMN.

While coming up on the heels of Austin at No.41, Dallas has a long way to go before catching up with the top five: Washington, D.C., St. Paul, Minnesota, Minneapolis, Irvine, California, and Arlington, Virginia.

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