Minneapolis park system drops to third best in the nation; St. Paul stays at No. 2

Minneapolis parks
Minneapolis has been dethroned as having the nation's best park system.
Jennifer Simonson | MPR News 2013

Minneapolis, you're no longer No. 1.

At least, according to the Park Score, a rating of public park and recreation facilities for the 100 biggest cities in the country. After three years atop the rankings, Minneapolis has fallen to No. 3, dethroned by Washington, D.C.

In the No. 2 spot for another year: St. Paul.

The Trust for Public Land issued the eighth annual version of its rankings Wednesday. The nonprofit group ranks cities based on the accessibility of parks to nearby residents, park acreage, park spending per resident and the number of amenities like basketball hoops, off-leash dog parks, recreation centers and restrooms.

Officials with the trust say movement in the top spots shows that cities, including Washington, D.C., have been stepping up their parks game in response to the rankings. They also point out that more people now live in Minneapolis, which can push down the number of people in the city near parks and the per-capita park spending. The Metropolitan Council this week said the population had grown by more than 46,000 in the last eight years.

Al Bangoura, the newly selected parks superintendent in Minneapolis, said the city should be proud of the parks and the services they provide. "We make sure everything we do is based on community engagement, what people are looking for and access to our incredible park system," Bangoura said.

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He added that the city's amenities are attracting more people. "People move to Minneapolis because of the park system. They come here because of opportunity. They come here because our park system is the best in the country."

Minneapolis has plans to develop a park on the Cepro site in south Minneapolis and open the Towerside Park in northeast. The planned North Loop park and the redevelopment of the Upper Harbor Terminal will also give more access to the city's growing population.

"Park Score is working, and it's encouraging improvement, which is exactly what our goal is at the Trust for Public Land," said Susan Schmidt, state director for the trust in Minnesota. She noted Washington had invested in playgrounds and partnered with public schools to bring more park space online.

"We believe great park systems are essential. This is really intended to help cities across America improve their park system and to provide what we believe strongly is a fair and objective way to compare park systems," Schmidt said.