Irvine placed seventh nationally in an annual ranking released Wednesday of municipal park systems and resident access to recreational facilities, while Los Angeles plummeted from 49th last year to 71st.
According to The Trust for Public Land, which compiles the annual ParkScore survey, Irvine ranked tops in the nation for basketball hoops, with 17.2 per 100,000 residents, more than five times the national average.
The city was also highly rated for park investment and access, noting that 89% of residents live within a 10-minute walk to a park.
Los Angeles was credited with above-average investment in parks and for the percentage of city area used for parkland. But report authors said the city’s park spending had decreased in recent years, and a new “equity” factor used for this year’s rankings brought down the city’s ranking.
According to the report, residents of Los Angeles neighborhoods of color had access to 66% less park space per capita than predominantly white neighborhoods. Residents of low-income neighborhoods had 70% less park space, the report found.
Long Beach ranked 31st in the report, while Anaheim placed 58th, Riverside 69th and Santa Ana 88th.
Washington, D.C., was the top-ranked city in the report, followed by St. Paul and Minneapolis, which placed first last year.
“Parks are always essential to our communities, and they are even more valuable in times of crisis,” Diane Regas, president/CEO of The Trust for Public Land, said in a statement.
“During this extraordinary pandemic year, people relied on close-to-home parks, trails and open spaces to exercise and connect with nature more than ever. Parks also served as makeshift community centers for emergency services like food distribution, COVID testing and vaccine super-sites.”
According to the Trust, 57 of the 100 largest cities in the country used parks for COVID testing, vaccination or protective-equipment distribution centers over the past year, and 70 provided free meals at parks.
The Trust used the release of the report as a call for cities to increase spending on parks, noting that such funding is jeopardized due to the COVID-related economic downturn.
“We need parks more than ever, and park advocates are gearing up for a fight,” said Bill Lee, the Trust’s senior vice president for policy, advocacy and government relations.
“The Trust for Public Land is helping to lead a coalition of more than 300 organizations, businesses and community groups supporting a major investment in park equity through the bipartisan Parks, Jobs and Equity Act in Congress, and we are challenging the private sector to invest $50 million through the Equitable Communities Fund to create parks and open space in historically marginalized communities.”
The ParkScore report assesses cities based on criteria including park access, acreage, investment, equity and amenities, such as dog parks, “splash pads,” playgrounds, recreation centers and basketball courts.