Minnesota News

Twin Cities rank among nation’s top park systems

A kayak at the edge of a lake
A Paddle Share kayak is ready to go out on Pickerel Lake in Lilydale Regional Park in St. Paul.
Andrew Krueger | MPR News 2020

Residents of St. Paul and Minneapolis have some of the best park access in the country, according to the Trust for Public Land’s 2024 rankings.

Minneapolis ranked second, and St. Paul third, behind only Washington, D.C. The Twin Cities swapped spots from last year’s rankings to stay high on the list.

Sophie Harris Vorhoff is the Minnesota state director with the Trust for Public Land.

“Both of these systems should be proud,” Vorhoff said. “Access to the outdoors is a fundamental human need. People in Minneapolis and St. Paul value their parks, and they know the benefits these spaces provide.”

The Trust for Public Land ranks access to parks in the country’s 100 largest cities every year. It considers factors like how far residents need to travel to get to parks, amenities and public programming. 

Access sets Minneapolis and St. Paul apart. About 99 percent of residents across both cities live a 10-minute walk from a park, above the average city’s 76 percent.

This year, the Trust for Public Land paired its annual rankings with a study that found higher social engagement in the top-ranking cities. People who live in areas with more park access are more likely to volunteer and more likely to have friendships across income levels, the study found.

“Across the country right now, there’s this real concern about loneliness and isolation coming out of the pandemic,” Vorhoff said. “And parks are part of the solution. Parks are the place where you connect with your neighbors, you meet people and you build community.” 

The Twin Cities’ rankings noted social programming, like arts and crafts classes, organized outdoor activities and voter registration drives.

“We’re reminded of the immense value our parks bring to our city’s social fabric,” St. Paul Parks and Recreation Director Andy Rodriguez said. “From fostering community connections, to promoting physical activity and well-being, our parks enrich the lives of the residents and visitors.” 

A boardwalk through a bog
A boardwalk leads through the Quaking Bog at Theodore Wirth Regional Park in Minneapolis on June 19.
Andrew Krueger | MPR News 2023

But park access depends on where you live. In Minneapolis, neighborhoods where most residents identify as people of color have 54 percent less park space than predominantly white neighborhoods. Low-income neighborhoods rank lower, too.

That follows nationwide trends. On average, low-income and predominantly BIPOC neighborhoods have 45 percent less park space than predominantly white and high-income neighborhoods. 

In north Minneapolis, the Parks and Recreation Board is developing a new 20-acre regional park that board members say will increase access.

“We are committed to equitable investments in park improvements and programming, and to increasing access to parks in low-income neighborhoods and areas where residents identify as people of color,” Superintendent of the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board Al Bangoura said. 

Across the country, Vorhoff said, cities are investing more in their parks. The Trust for Public Land found an increase in spending on parks, with the highest average per-resident investment since it started tracking in 2012.

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