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Plano Leads North Texas Cities In Annual ParkScore Index

Emily E. Cline/Flickr
Arbor Hills Nature Preserve in Plano

The non-profit Trust for Public Land has released its annual ParkScore Index, which rates the park systems in the 100 largest cities in the U.S. Six North Texas cities made the list. Here’s how they stacked up:

18. Plano

The reason: “Plano received high marks for its large median park size of 13.3 acres, more than twice the national ParkScore average of 5.1 acres. Plano was also the only the area city to receive above-average marks for park access. According to ParkScore, 74 percent of local residents live within a 10-minute walk of a park, exceeding the national ParkScore average of 67.7 percent. However, Plano’s overall ranking was hurt by low scores for park amenities, including basketball hoops, dog parks, and recreation and senior centers.”

54. Dallas

The reason: “Dallas reserves 12.6 percent of its city area for parkland, well above the national ParkScore average of 8.9 percent. It also has a 7.2 acre median park size, above the ParkScore average of 5.1 acres. However, only 58 percent of Dallas residents live within a 10-minute walk of a park, well below the national ParkScore average of 67.7 percent.”

58. Arlington

The reason: “Arlington also features a large median park size, and the city spends $90 per resident on parks, above the national ParkScore average of $82. But only 55 percent of Arlington residents live within a 10-minute walk of a park. Arlington’s ParkScore was also hurt by low marks for numbers of basketball courts, playgrounds, and recreation and senior centers per resident.”

60. Garland

The reason: “Garland boasts a high median park size of 9.8 acres, but only 56 percent of residents are within a 10-minute walk of a park. Garland ParkScore was also hurt by below-average marks for park amenities. Notably, the city has zero [city-owned] dog parks.”

78. Fort Worth

The reason: “Fort Worth received above average marks for median park size, but received one of the nation’s lowest scores for park amenities. The city provides only 1.4 basketball hoops per 10,000 residents and only a single [city-owned] dog park for the entire city.”

85. Irving

The reason: “Irving has a high number of playgrounds per resident. However, access was also a problem, with only 57 percent of residents living within a 10-minute walk of a park.”

Behind the rankings

ParkScores are based on three factors: the accessibility of public parks, how much land is devoted to parks, and money spent on park infrastructure and amenities.

The index only takes data from city parks, so parks created by homeowner’s associations or funded with private money aren’t included.

“There’s no one doing badly here,” Andrew Benepe, Vice President and Director of City Park Development for the Trust, said. “it’s just a lot of people playing catchup because of development policies built around freeways and automobiles 50-60 years ago have really left a legacy that’s not a good one.”

Car-centric development in places like Dallas and Fort Worth have hurt park accessibility for residents. The ParkScore judges accessibility by whether residents are within a 10-minute walk of a city park. However, Benepe says cities are getting creative.

“Texas has become a laboratory for new park development and new thinking about parks as part of an enhanced urban infrastructure,” he said.

One example: Klyde Warren Park in Dallas, which sits above Woodall Rogers Freeway. Benepe says the park has become an international model for urban parks. Dallas officials hope to build a similar deck park above Interstate 35E near the Dallas Zoo.

Check out the full ParkScore index.   

(Photo credit: Emily E. Cline/Flickr)

Former KERA staffer Krystina Martinez was an assistant producer. She produced local content for Morning Edition and She also produced The Friday Conversation, a weekly series of conversations with North Texas newsmakers. Krystina was also the backup newscaster for the Texas Standard.