Oklahoma City wound up near the bottom of a list that ranks the best public parks systems in the 40 biggest U.S. cities.
But not only do officials here expect to be moving up the list soon, but even the list-
The Trust for Public Land, a San Francisco-
But with more investment recently in parks and the massive MAPS 3 Core to Shore park on the way, Oklahoma City's parks system is bound to move up in the rankings.
“We're very impressed with what's going on in Oklahoma City,” said Peter Harnik, director of the trust's Center for City Park Excellence.
“Hopefully, Oklahoma City will climb up in the rankings year by year.”
City's size hampers rank
The ParkScore system ranks parks based on the amount of park space relative to the city's size, the number of playgrounds and the number of people who live within a 10 minute walk to a public park, among other things.
“That works favorably for a highly densely populated city like a Boston or a San Francisco, but for a city that has vast areas of undeveloped land or sparsely populated land like ours, it works against you,” said city Parks and Recreation Director Wendel Whisenhunt.
Cities that developed largely after the use of cars became widespread are at a disadvantage when it comes to parks because of their size, Harnik said.
It's hard to catch up with the denser cities on the coasts.
Investment means improvement
The city's park system was also long ignored by voters, but money for more parks has been included in three straight bond packages, Whisenhunt said.
It's leading to more parks, and better maintenance of existing parks.
“I'm just thrilled with how far our parks system has come in such a short amount of time,” Mayor Mick Cornett said after last week's city council meeting, which included a look at more money for maintenance and adult athletics programs in next year's city budget. “We went 20 years, I think, without any sort of capital improvements for our parks.”
To help city residents get more out of their parks despite sprawl, the city has worked to create large regional parks with lots of amenities. It also helps hold down maintenance costs.
“We're able to send a crew there (to regional parks) and work all day instead of spending a lot of time traveling between parks,” Whisenhunt said.
Harnik said Oklahoma City should continue investment with the long-term in mind, because decades-long focus on improving green space can lead to game-changing results over time.
“It's important for Oklahomans to push their elected officials to devote more money to parks, fix up rundown parks and buy more land in the needier neighborhoods,” he said.
By the numbers
Best public park systems
1. San Francisco
2. Sacramento, Calif.
3. Boston (tie)
3. New York (tie)
6. Portland, Ore.
7. Virginia Beach, Va.
8. San Diego
Worst public park systems
31. Tucson, Ariz. (tie)
31. Memphis, Tenn. (tie)
33. Oklahoma City
34. Jacksonville, Fla.
35. San Antonio
36. Indianapolis (tie)
36. Mesa, Ariz. (tie)
38. Louisville, Ky.
39. Charlotte, N.C.
40. Fresno, Calif.
Source: Trust for Public Land's ParkScore Rankings
To learn more
For more information, go to ParkScore.TPL.org.
We're very impressed with what's going on in Oklahoma City. Hopefully, Oklahoma City will climb up in the rankings year by year.”