The Trust for Public Land’s annual report on urban parks drops today, and while Dallas has slipped in its ranking compared with the country’s largest 100 cities, it has made big strides expanding access to parks.
The ParkScore metric, which ranks cities based on access to parks, park acreage, park investment, and park amenities, listed Dallas 52nd in the nation, a slip from its 49th place rank in 2018. But Dallas has increased the number of residents living within a 10-minute walk from a park. Robert Kent, North Texas Area Director for the Trust for Public Lands, says this is a result of a concerted effort between the Dallas Park and Recreation Department and Dallas and Richardson ISDs to convert 32 public school campuses into joint-use playgrounds after hours.
“In 2017, Mayor Rawlings was one of the first mayors to join TPL’s national “10-Minute Walk to a Park” campaign,” Kent says. “Since then, Dallas’s 10-minute walk figure has gone up from 60 percent in 2017 to 69 percent in 2019, which translates to over 145,000 people gaining park access. This was the 4th largest improvement in the country.”
Kent adds that over the next two years there are plans to unveil even more parks and trails funded by the most recent city bond issue, and so access to parks in Dallas will continue to improve.
Dallas Park Board President Bobby Abtahi remembers the mayor being initially reluctant to sign onto the pledge during that 2017 meeting without knowing that city could follow through. The concerted effort over the past two years to expand park access is a credit to the way the city and the school districts were able to work together to keep their word, he says.
“It is something we promised we would do,” Abtahi says.
Where the city’s park system lost points is for amenities, with the report citing a lack of dog parks and restrooms. The city scores well with regards to park size. Dallas’s median park size of 7.7 acres outstrips the national median of 5 acres, though that average is probably bolstered by counting the entirety of the Trinity River floodway. But Dallas parks are average with regard to investment.
The top five cities for parks include Washington D.C.; Saint Paul, MN; Minneapolis, MN; Arlington, VA; and Portland, OR. New York, San Francisco, and Chicago also fall in the top ten. Other cities highlighted in the report include Boise, which has a remarkable 5.7 dog parks for every 100,000 residents and Boston, which seems to provide plenty of places for kids to splash around in their parks. One park trend the report found is Pickleball, which, given the fact that I’m not quite sure what Pickleball is, either suggests that Dallas has not yet jumped on the trend or I’m not hanging where all this city’s Pickleballers hang.
Relative to the region, however, Dallas is doing pretty well. Arlington (68), Garland (80), Irving (88), and Fort Worth (89) all rank below Dallas. Unsurprisingly for the sprawling region, all of these cities fail to provide many parks within a 10-minute walk of their residents. Fort Worth got dinged for not providing park amenities. Incredibly, there are only 1.5 basketball hoops per 10,000 residents out in Funky Town.
The star of the region is Plano, which killed DFW in the park access category. Don’t let that suburban rep fool you. Seventy-five percent of Plano residents can walk to a park in 10 minutes. Can you?
Here’s the full report.
Correction: An earlier version of this story said that just 59 percent of Dallas residents had access within a 10 minute walk to public parks. That number was 69 percent. The headline was also changed to reflect the largest takeaway from the report.