Over one million acres of city space in the United States are dedicated to public parks. The San Francisco-based Trust for Public Land recently released their annual report on the state and availability of these public parks in the country’s 40 largest cities.
“Some cities have plenty of parkland that’s well distributed around town; others have enough land but an inequitable distribution; others are short of even a basic amount of park space for their citizens,” the report outlined.
One of the new factors being measured by the Trust for Public Land’s 2012 report was the percentage of city residents in walkable distance to a public park. The report ranked New York City third in the nation, behind San Francisco and Boston, with 96 percent of residents living within a half-mile of a some kind of public park. Louisville, Ky.; Jacksonville, Fla. and Charlotte, N.C. are at the bottom of the list with 32 percent or less of their population within walking distance of a park.
The report also said New York’s Central Park was the most visited park in the county, receiving 37.5 million visitors annually.
“Central Park’s [nearly] 40 million annual visitors speaks to the significance of Central Park as the ultimate shared backyard of every New Yorker, its vast contributions to New York City’s economy and its greater role as one of the world’s most extraordinary cultural institutions,” said Doug Blonsky, president and CEO of the Central Park Conservancy.
NYU professor of Urban Planning Tim Tompkins, who is also the founder and director of the Partnerships for Parks in New York City, spoke about the importance of city parks.
“Part of what’s happened in recent years has been the recognititon that parks aren’t just pleasant, but are crucial components to a city’s quality of life and economic competitiveness,” he said. “Investment in quality public spaces can really revitalize cities.”
Adrian Benepe, the senior vice president of the Trust for Public Land and former New York City Parks Commissioner, said the Trust focuses on advocating the creation of public parks throughout the country, noting that New York City is fortunate compared to other cities.
“New York is very lucky to benefit from over a century of dedication to the building of public parks — from Battery Park to Washington Square,” he said. “Almost 20 percent of New York City is parkland, and that’s more than any other similarly dense city in the country. Many newer cities haven’t had the resources to build this level of large public space back when it was so easily available.”
LSP freshman Priya Chidambaram said living next to one of the country’s oldest parks has impacted her college life.
“As an NYU student, Washington Square Park is where I get so much of the New York experience. It really creates the feeling of a green campus in an otherwise bustling concrete city.”
A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, Dec. 4 print edition. Andrew Karpan is a staff writer. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.