11 cities which have probably the most public outside area

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11 cities with the most public open spaces

Picturesque St Johns Bridge spans Cathedral Park and the Willamette River in north Portland.

When one thinks of “green space,” America’s towering cities are hardly the first image that springs to mind. However, some of these concrete jungles are moving to prioritize better access to outdoor spaces within city limits.

Portland Real Estate examined the Trust for Public Land’s 2022 Parkscore Index to determine which cities have the most public outdoor spaces for residents. Rankings of the 100 largest cities by population consider several factors, including area, investments, amenities, access, and equity.

For this analysis, the definition of parks is the land that residents can access. These include parks, pathways, open spaces, shared school parks, and private parks open to the public. Parks in gated communities, golf courses or playgrounds that do not have a shared use agreement with the city are not included.

About 100 million Americans live within walking distance of a park, according to the Trust for Public Land. Those who live more than 1 km (five eighths of a mile) away are about 50% more likely to experience stress or anxiety than those who are closer. Parkland can also counteract some of the effects of climate change. A May 2022 survey of parks authorities found that 85% of the top 100 cities said they are in the process of adapting facilities to handle extreme heat and flooding.

Read on to learn how American cities are incorporating outdoor spaces for residents.


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#11. Portland, Oregon

A green path with benches along SW Park Ave, Portland.

– Total score (out of 100): 74.5
– Average park size: 4.9 hectares
– Percent of city with parkland: 18.0%
– Percentage of residents within 10 minutes’ walk of a park: 90%

Portland has 325 parks, to which the city government contributes approximately $229 per capita. Recently established spaces include the Butte Falls Community Forest and the Chiloquin Elementary Schoolyard. Spence Mountain has long been a popular area for running and mountain biking due to its abundance of hiking trails. It’s a popular hangout for the Jackalopes, a local youth mountain bike club.

Many groups in the Portland area are focused on making outdoor recreation as inclusive as possible, with various organizations working to bring together residents of all backgrounds who share a variety of recreational, cultural, and social interests.


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#10. New-York, New-York

Aerial view of Central Park in New York.

– Total score (out of 100): 75.5
– Average park size: 1 acre
– Percent of city with parkland: 21.2%
– Percentage of residents within 10 minutes’ walk of a park: 99%

Although New York City is one of the most densely populated cities in the country, New York City also ranks highly when it comes to public outdoor spaces. It ranks 10th among all cities in the Parkscore Index, beating Portland, Oregon and Boston, Massachusetts.

An impressive 99% of citizens live within a 10-minute walk of a park, with this distribution being evenly distributed across age, race and income. Although Central Park is the most famous, the city is home to 2,329 parks. Locals might have to do a little more searching to get their outdoor fix in such a concrete-heavy space, but this has led to some creative solutions: For example, a climbing boulder was installed on Governors Island in July 2022.


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#9. Seattle, Washington

Gas Works Park in Seattle.

– Total score (out of 100): 76.2
– Average park size: 5.4 hectares
– Percent of city with parkland: 12.5%
– Percentage of residents within 10 minutes’ walk of a park: 99%

With 885 parks within its borders, it’s easy to see why Seattle is nicknamed the “Emerald City.” In addition to the usual hiking and running opportunities, residents also have the luxury of paddle boarding and whale watching on their doorstep thanks to nearby Lake Union, Portage Bay and the San Juan Islands. The city is even home to a sandy entrance to the Pacific, Alki Beach. However, the same coastal location that makes these activities possible may also come at a price, as the effects of climate change, particularly sea level rise, will affect residents of this coastal city.


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#8th. Irvine, California

People walking on footpath at Irvine Open Space Park.

– Total score (out of 100): 76.6
– Average park size: 6.1 hectares
– Percent of city with parkland: 37.4%
– Percentage of residents within 10 minutes’ walk of a park: 89%

Irvine is home to 306 parks, with those under 20 and over 65 having the most access. The city is best known for the Orange County Great Park. Thousands of acres of outdoor space in Irvine comprise the Irvine Open Space Preserve, home to wetlands, meadows, forests and a variety of wildlife including deer, mountain lions, bobcats and coyotes.

The city owes its preserved lands to the Irvine Ranch Conservancy, which works with city officials and local landowners to preserve and protect significant areas.


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#7. San Francisco, California

People enjoy outdoor activities and views of the Painted Ladies homes at Alamo Square.

– Total score (out of 100): 76.7
– Average park size: 1.3 hectares
– Percent of city with parkland: 20.6%
– Percentage of residents within 10 minutes’ walk of a park: 100%

San Francisco is home to 481 parks, one of which surrounds its landmark, the Golden Gate Bridge. Golden Gate Park is just one example of urban trail development in US cities. These not only increase city dwellers’ access to outdoor spaces, but also protect them from psychological impairments and the effects of climate change.

The San Francisco Bay Trail under development will eventually connect all nine boroughs of the Bay Area. Residents can currently use 350 available miles of an eventual 500 mile trail. Glen Canyon Park, Buena Vista Park and Tank Hill are green spaces popular for running and hiking.


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#6. Chicago, Illinois

Aerial view of Chicago skyline from above.

– Total score (out of 100): 76.8
– Average park size: 2.2 hectares
– Percent of city with parkland: 10.1%
– Percentage of residents within 10 minutes’ walk of a park: 98%

Chicago joins New York’s four-digit park number with 1,241 parks. The city has parks that honor the history of the community and blend outdoor recreation with culture and history, including Pullman National Monument, an open space commemorating labor reformers who championed workplace justice for black factory workers.

Chicago is also playing a role in growing urban trail projects with a 2.7-mile trail along Highway 606. The area has given Windy City residents a space to jog, walk, and bike surrounded by rows of trees.


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#5. Minneapolis, Minnesota

The Spoonbridge and Cherry at the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden.

– Total score (out of 100): 78.6
– Average park size: 5.6 hectares
– Percent of city with parkland: 15.0%
– Percentage of residents within 10 minutes’ walk of a park: 98%

Minneapolis is home to 22 of Minnesota’s 10,000 lakes. The chain of five lakes offers opportunities for fishing and kayaking on the water, as well as walking and biking along their border trail. Minneapolis residents are never more than six blocks from a park, of which there are 274 in the city.

The Mississippi flows through the city and is ideal for kayaking and other water sports. In the winter, those same waterways bring icy activities to the Midwest—including ice skating, hockey, and skiing.


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#4. Cincinnati, Ohio

The Serpentine Wall on the banks of the Ohio River.

– Total score (out of 100): 78.9
– Average park size: 4.2 hectares
– Percent of city with parkland: 16.5%
– Percentage of residents within 10 minutes’ walk of a park: 88%

Biking is growing in popularity in Cincinnati, thanks in large part to the completion of the Ohio-to-Erie Trail in 2017. This trail stretches 326 miles from the Ohio River in Cincinnati to Lake Erie in Cleveland. Hiking and running are also popular activities in Cincinnati’s outdoor scene.

A hotspot for both, Mount Airy Forest encompasses nearly 1,500 acres of available space. Cincinnati is one of the few U.S. cities working to improve equity of access to outdoor spaces through the development of shared-use agreements.


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#3. Arlington, Va

View of the tulip gardens in Arlington Ridge Park.

– Total score (out of 100): 79.1
– Average park size: 2.5 hectares
– Percent of city with parkland: 11.1%
– Percentage of residents within 10 minutes’ walk of a park: 99%

Located across the Potomac River west of Washington DC, Arlington offers residents the opportunity to kayak and take boat trips with uninterrupted views of the Washington Monument and Lincoln Memorial. On the coast, the city offers 1,100 acres of parks with running and hiking trails totaling 75 miles. Arlington National Cemetery makes up more than half of it.

Although it’s unique for a city to have a large, historic cemetery to centralize outdoor recreation, the rolling hills and tranquil atmosphere make it ideal for a stroll or an escape from the hustle and bustle of the city.


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#2. St Paul, Minnesota

The St Paul skyline.

– Total score (out of 100): 79.7
– Average park size: 3.2 hectares
– Percent of city with parkland: 15.4%
– Percentage of residents within 10 minutes’ walk of a park: 99%

St. Paul includes 188.8 miles of bike trails. Additionally, residents take advantage of the numerous outdoor areas for fishing and kayaking in the warm months, and ice fishing, sledding, and skiing in the winter.

The city uses its exceptional green space to offer environmental, outdoor, and natural resource education programs to local children. The “Explore Outdoors St. Paul” initiative aims to ensure that local youth have equal access to nature. It was supported by the St. Paul 2040 Comprehensive Plan, of which “Celebrating Parks” is one of four main goals.


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#1. Washington, D.C

The Washington Monument at sunset with the mall and reflecting pond in front.

– Total score (out of 100): 84.9
– Average park size: 1.4 hectares
– Percent of city with parkland: 23.9%
– Percentage of residents within 10 minutes’ walk of a park: 98%

America’s capital is also the country’s highest-ranking outdoor space city. It includes 634 parks and green spaces and spends $284 per capita on parks. Perhaps the best-known spot is Rock Creek Park, which offers 1,754 acres for running and biking. City dwellers flock to the 32 miles of trails just 3 miles from the White House.

An active local volunteer base helps maintain the inner-city oasis. The National Mall, famous for connecting the Capitol Building to the Washington Monument, is also a popular destination for strolling, biking, and picnicking.

This story originally appeared on Portland Real Estate and was produced and
distributed in partnership with Stacker Studio.