Our score puts us just between Washington, D.C., and Minneapolis.
Once again, the Trust for Public Land named Saint Paul as the second-best public parks system in the nation when it released its annual ranking of 100 municipal park systems. As Mayor Melvin Carter pointed out during our celebration of the new on May 24, 2023, since the National Mall in D.C. receives Federal support, “Saint Paul really is number one among municipally-funded park systems.”
The full results of the annual ranking can be found at https://www.tpl.org/.
Saint Paul added three new dog parks citywide and a series of public amenities at Highland Bridge, the former site of the Twin Cities Ford auto manufacturing plant, which is now home to a skate park, a dog park, multiple playgrounds, and two large, stormwater-fed water features.
“It’s such a beautiful space,” said Sophie Vorhoff, Minnesota state director for the Trust for Public Land. “Seeing the skating and the combination of nature play and programming to reach everyone, it’s quite exciting to see the work that St. Paul is doing to create spaces that are welcoming to the community.”
10-minute walk to a park
In St. Paul, 99% of residents live within a 10-minute walk of a public park. That’s well above the ParkScore city average of 76%. Both cities also exceeded the national average for park investment, spending more than twice the national ParkScore average per capita. Nationally, municipal park spending has picked up about $1 billion, though it remains below where it was in 2007, before the Great Recession, after adjusting for inflation. Park spending in large cities such as New York and Chicago remains fairly flat.
Historically, the average Saint Paul homeowner has $93 of their taxes to support our parks. However, with private investment through nonprofits like the Conservancy and Como Friends and government grants to Saint Paul projects, the actual spend per resident is $300.
Citing a growing number of activities and culturally-inclusive offerings such as Hmong top-spinning (or tuj lub) courts, Sophie Vorhoff also said, “That is a place where both St. Paul and Minneapolis have shined. Nature play, programming for youth and seniors, lowering the barrier to entry by waiving fees for sports are some of the areas where we’ve really seen St. Paul and Minneapolis leading the country.”
Less park space in low-income areas
One area where D.C. outshines the Twin Cities is equity access, a metric that was added in 2021. St. Paul offers 32% less park space per person in neighborhoods of color than white neighborhoods and 34% less park space in low-income communities than wealthier ones.
To celebrate the capital city’s enviable rank and the 174th anniversary of the city’s parks system, the St. Paul Parks Conservancy and St. Paul Parks and Recreation hosted a birthday celebration in Rice Park. Rice and Irvine’s parks were platted in May 1849, making them the oldest of 182 parks.