Boston Has One of the Best Parks Systems in the Country

A new list from the Trust for Public Land ranks us third among major cities.

Boston has some of the best park space of any large metro in the country, according to an annual ParkScore ranking from the Trust for Public Land released today. The organization took America’s 50 largest cities, and evaluated their parks using criteria like accessibility, size, and city investment and amenities. Boston tied with Sacramento and San Francisco for third place, bested only by Minneapolis and New York City. (New York City is basically our Eagleton.)

To see the advantages we have in access to park land, you need only look at the color-coded maps provided by the Trust for Public Land. Here’s Boston:


Trust for Public Land


On the map, the dark green areas represent parks. The light green areas show places well serviced by the parks. Orange spots have “high need” for parks and red spaces have “very high need.” (You have to squint to see them.)

Harder to visualize is that we also score well in the investment and services category, providing 3.6 playgrounds for every 10,000 residents, for example. Peter Harnik, director of the Trust for Public Land’s Center for City Park Excellence explained to The Atlantic Cities’ Emily Badger why his organization focuses on playgrounds:

We feel a playground is really a basic bottom-line measure of what a city park system is doing for its residents. Obviously playgrounds are great for children, but they go way beyond children. They’re community gathering areas, they are so important to the social network of a neighborhood and a city.

Now compare Boston with Fresno, California, which came in last place of the 50 cities ranked:


Trust for Public Land

That’s a lot of orange and red.

But before you get too overwhelmed with pride, keep in mind that we have some built in historical advantages over Fresno. As Badger writes in The Atlantic Cities:

Those cities built before the car began to influence city design, like Boston or New York, have an urban form that makes parks more accessible than those cities built largely after the car, such as Tucson or Houston. And for cities like Fresno, where backyards are commonplace, the need for parks may seem lower.

Boston is a densely packed city because it had to be when getting around was more arduous, which means it’s necessarily easier for us to walk to a park in under 10 minutes (one of the criteria judged) than it need be in Los Angeles, where everyone has a car anyway.

As for the areas keeping us out of the number one spot, peer cities like New York and San Francisco got more points in the acreage category, which considers parks as a percentage of city area and median park sizes. But, as with any algorithm-inspired ranking, there’s some subjectivity in terms of how to choose and weight various factors when deciding what makes a park system great. Don’t stress too much. Parks are something we do better than most, and we know what Leslie Knope would think about that:


Wait, no, wrong GIF.


There we go.