Denver jumps to 22nd in U.S. cities parks rankings, lagging on acreage

Denver lags behind most other U.S. cities in park space, but jumped from 29th to 22nd in the latest rankings based on increased public funds.

A voter-approved tax hike in 2018 raises more than $30 million a year for parks, and Denver officials have said they’ll spend about half that on acquiring open space.

The Trust for Public Land researchers, who produce annual rankings, credited Denver with maintaining a wide distribution of parks — 91% of residents can reach a park within 10 minutes — and abundant amenities such as basketball hoops. Denver spent $130 per resident on parks over the past year, up from $115 the previous year, researchers found.

But with existing parks designated on 8% (9.85 square miles) of Denver’s 153 square-mile area amid a development boom, the city is behind the national average of 9.6%, according to TPL data from the 100 most populous cities. Denver park space compares with 21% in New York,  24% in Washington, D.C., and 21% in San Francisco.

Neighboring Aurora has 11% of the city area designated as parks but scored lower than Denver overall due to less access and amenities.

TPL’s  “parkscore” rankings are based on four factors: park access (percentage of residents living within a 10-minute walk of a park), park acreage (median park size and percentage of city area), public spending on parks, and amenities (basketball hoops, off-leash dog parks, playgrounds, water play structures, rec centers, restrooms).

TPL researcher Charlie McCabe said Denver stands out as a successful builder of trails along waterways, and that these could be expanded as in Dallas to help address acreage deficiency.


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