The City in a Forest has taken a step backwards, albeit a small one, in a closely watched annual ranking of U.S. cities with the best and most strategic park systems.
Trust for Public Land officials say Atlanta has placed 28th on the 2023 ParkScore index, landing between Kansas City and Baltimore, respectively.
That’s one spot lower than Atlanta’s 27th ranking in 2022, when the city surged from middle-of-the-pack purgatory on the index following the opening of several large greenspace projects.
TPL officials nodded to Atlanta’s strong marks for park investment and access, noting the “city’s new [lower] position resulted from improvements made by other cities, not changes to the local park system,” according to an announcement.
TPL’s methodology ranks the 100 most populous U.S. cities by comparing five park categories: acreage, equity, access, investment, and amenities.
Researchers found that 77 percent of Atlantans now live within a 10-minute walk of a park, which is slightly better than the national ParkScore average of 76 percent.
When it comes to park investment, however, Atlanta’s $211 per person expenditures nearly doubled the national average of $108 last year, according to TPL officials.
Holding the city back on the ParkScore ranking is its relatively small median park size and below-average marks on park equity. ATL’s median park size is 2.9 acres, while the national average is 5.4 acres.
Per usual, Washington, D.C., held on to the ParkScore title for U.S. cities, narrowly besting Saint Paul. The top 10 is heavy with older or more northernly cities than Atlanta.
For comparison’s sake, Washington’s overall score is 84.9 out of 100, while Atlanta’s points total is 59.8.
Last year was a different story. Atlanta rocketed up 22 spots on the 2022 ParkScore Index—the biggest mover of the year—following a monumental year in 2021 for new urban greenspaces. Those included the sprawling Westside Park, Cook Park in Vine City, and a park-topped parking garage in Grant Park, among others.
Atlanta was noted in TPL’s latest study as being among leaders in promoting community health at its parks, with programs such as “Walk with a Doc” and other screening services put on by Georgia Tech and Atlanta’s Department of Parks and Recreation.
“Park Pride is proud of Atlanta’s rise in the ParkScore ranking in recent years and proud of what we have accomplished thus far,” Michael Halicki, the citywide parks organization’s executive director, said in a prepared statement. “That said, you haven’t seen nothin’ yet. What we have in the works makes me optimistic we will continue to increase our stature as a city on the rise.”
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