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Does Wichita Have Enough Parks?

Ty Nigh
flickr Creative Commons

 A report released Wednesday from The Trust for Public Land on the nation's park systems ranks Wichita 34th out of the 50 largest U.S. cities.

ParkScore rates city park systems on a scale of zero to five park benches, with Wichita earning two. Wichita scored well on median park size but was hurt by low marks for park and playground access.

“You can’t have a great city without great parks,” said Adrian Benepe, senior vice president and director of city park development for The Trust for Public Land. “Parks bring neighbors together and help create a sense of community."

ParkScore ratings are based on three factors: Park access, which measures the percentage of residents living within a 10-minute walk of a park (approximately ½-mile); Park size, which is based on a city’s median park size and the percentage of total city area dedicated to parks; and services and investment, which combines the number of playgrounds per 10,000 city residents and per capita park spending.

With a median park size of 10 acres, Wichita ranked in the top 10 among all ParkScore cities on this factor. However, it fell short on park access. Only half of Wichita residents live within a 10-minute walk of a park, below the ParkScore average of 64 percent. The scores for park spending and playgrounds per 10,000 residents also ranked below the national average.

“Wichita’s score of two benches in its debut year on the ParkScore index means that it’s doing a lot of things right but still has room to improve,” said Peter Harnik, director of the center for city park excellence, a research arm of The Trust for Public Land. “Wichita’s median park size is very impressive, providing residents with the space they need to enjoy a wide range of recreational activities.

Harnik says to improve its ParkScore, Wichita should focus on creating new parks in needy areas and ensure that park budgets are sufficient to maintain and improve the parks that already exist.

This is the first year for Wichita to receive a ParkScore rating because the index expanded to the 50 largest U.S. cities this year, up from the 40 largest in 2012. Wichita is the 49th largest U.S. city, according to the Census Bureau.

According to The Trust for Public Land, the 10 highest-ranking city park systems in the United States are:

1. Minneapolis 5.0 park benches
2. New York 4.5 park benches
3. Boston (tie) 4.0 park benches
3. Sacramento (tie) 4.0 park benches
3. San Francisco (tie) 4.0 park benches
6. Washington, DC 4.0 park benches
7. Portland 4.0 park benches
8. Virginia Beach 4.0 park benches
9. San Diego 4.0 park benches
10. Seattle 4.0 park benches

The 13 lowest-ranking city park systems are:

38. Houston (tie) 2.0 park benches
38. Miami (tie) 2.0 park benches
38. Nashville (tie) 2.0 park benches
38. Tucson (tie) 2.0 park benches
42. Memphis 1.5 park benches
43. Oklahoma City 1.5 park benches
44. Jacksonville (tie) 1.5 park benches
44. San Antonio (tie) 1.5 park benches
46. Mesa, AZ 1.5 park benches
47. Indianapolis (tie) 1.0 park benches
47. Charlotte (tie) 1.0 park benches
49. Louisville 1.0 park benches
50. Fresno 1.0 park benches

For more information about ParkScore, visit parkscore.tpl.org.