How Charlotte’s parks score (badly) in national rankings

A girl feeds the ducks at Freedom Park during the annual Festival in the Park.
A girl feeds the ducks at Freedom Park during the annual Festival in the Park. dlaird@charlotteobserver.com

Charlotte’s parks rank near the bottom of ratings of the largest U.S. cities for a second straight year, a nonprofit advocacy group said Thursday.

The Trust for Public Land placed Charlotte in 95th place, tied with Indianapolis, among 100 cities. TPL is a national organization that advocates for urban parks.

The group’s ParkScore index is based on three measures: the percentage of residents who live within a half-mile of a park; median park size and the percentage of the city dedicated to parks; and park spending per resident, including popular amenities such as basketball hoops and playgrounds.

“In a nutshell, Charlotte did very well for median park size (15.9 acres), but poorly on all other measures,” TPL’s Matt Kagan said. “Only 27 percent of residents live within a 10-minute walk of a park – the worst of any city evaluated. Low spending per resident ($44, compared to the national ParkScore average of $82) also hurt Charlotte’s ParkScore.”

Charlotte ranked 74th among 75 cities last year because TPL judged that too few residents live near parks.

“Every American deserves to live within a 10-minute walk of a park, and ParkScore helps us measure which cities are meeting that mark,” TPL president Will Rogers said in a statement on the rankings.

The group also issues “park bench” ratings that summarize overall park quality. Charlotte got one park bench on the five-bench scale.

“We pay attention to what … local needs are through the master plan, which is citizen-driven,” Mecklenburg County parks director Jim Garges said by e-mail.

“Comparisons are interesting, but should not be used as a driver to meet local needs. We do need more parks, greenways, centers and a host of other amenities. We’re making progress and have great support from citizens, elected officials and our county administration.”

TPL ranked the Minneapolis park system as the nation’s best. Fort Wayne, Ind., placed last.

Bruce Henderson: 704-358-5051, @bhender