For the first time in its history, a national ranking of urban green space in the US is looking not only at the number and quality of parks within the nation’s 100 largest cities, but also at the similarity of their distribution – one at dazzling intervals. The spotlight is shining between access to nature along racial and socioeconomic lines.
Historically, the Trust for Public Land’s annual ParkScore Index ranked cities based on four factors: acreage, investment, amenities and access. but 2021 Index, released Thursday, includes equity components that compare, for example, park space per capita for color versus white neighborhoods, per capita space for low-income versus high-income neighborhoods, and how many for low-income neighborhoods. And people of color are within a 10-minute walk from the park.
“This is something that park systems and cities have asked us repeatedly over the years,” Linda Hwang, director of strategy and innovation at the Trust for Public Land, told Grist. “We are really proud to be able to index that category in the rankings this year.”
The addition of equity addressed the disparity in the Trust for Public Land’s scoring process that allowed Minneapolis to rank number seven out of nine previously included in the analysis, despite well-known inequality issues in the city’s parks. . Instead Washington DC’s Parks Network took the top spot this year.
Public green space makes up about 15 percent of the city of Minneapolis – one of the highest proportions in the country. in 2020, 98 percent Minneapolis residents lived a 10-minute walk from a park. But, the park system has historically benefited Minneapolis’s white residents far more than communities of color.
In the mid-1900s, Minneapolis’ parks were at the center of redlining practices that prevented any non-white residents from living there, the effects of which continue to this day. Low-income and communities of color in Minneapolis have historically had parks lowest amount received of funding. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, or the local branch of the NAACP, has also spoken out about the discrimination that park employees of color have faced. Minneapolis’ parks It has also been criticized for having its own police force that patrols 6,000 acres of park land, which sometimes creates a hostile environment for Black Park-goers. Within the city, Minneapolis police use seven times more force against black residents than against white residents.
It’s a difference in scoring that’s representative of a problem beyond just Minneapolis. In the 100 cities analyzed for the new Trust for Public Lands Index, neighborhoods made up of mostly people of color have an average of 44 percent less access to parks per capita than mostly white neighborhoods. Similarly, low-income residents have 42 percent less park space than high-income neighborhoods.
To address the park equity divide, Hwang and Rhonda Chapman, equity director of the Trust for Public Lands, say joint use agreements with schools that allow school grounds to be used as parks outside of school hours It is a great way to increase the reach of the park. Additionally, he says, cities should prioritize converting vacant lots and parking lots into parks as well as creating park equity plans.
In 2016, Minneapolis became the first park system in the country to make equity a guiding principle for park investment. “Those are the types of improvements we want to see,” Hwang said. “There is a park equity gap, but Minneapolis residents, and the Parks and Rec Board recognize it, and they are working to address it.” This year Minneapolis ranked third on the annual park scorecard.
St. Paul, Minnesota ranked second, down from Washington, D.C., Arlington, Virginia in fourth, and Chicago, Illinois in fifth. Several cities rose in the rankings due to the new equity measure, including Baltimore, which jumped from 58th place last year to 30th this year. Toledo, Ohio and Newark, New Jersey both grew 27 places.
The Trust for Public Lands is part of a coalition calling for federal investment. Parks, Jobs and Equity Act $500 million investment in local parks with priority to high-need populations determined by income, age, or other vulnerability factors. It will fund 1,000 new or upgraded parks and save or create several thousand jobs.
“We certainly believe that parks aren’t just about ‘being nice,'” Chapman said, adding that we see them as a vehicle for overall well-being.
Access to greenspace has been associated with positive health outcomes such as reduction in depression and anxiety, improved concentration and decreased blood pressure. Parks are not only good for recreation or relaxation – they also provide flood support, and increase needed shade and cooling.
“They are part of our public health infrastructure,” Hwang said. “When you invest in your park system you are investing in a number of other benefits that will be related to the climate and health and community to the people of the city.”
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