Special Report

Major US Cities With the Worst Access to Parks

Access to park space is an important amenity for city dwellers, especially in the COVID era when many people want outdoor recreation. However, some cities do a much worse job than others at providing it. 

To identify the major U.S. cities where people have the most limited access to park space, 24/7 Tempo reviewed The Trust for Public Land’s 2021 ParkServe dataset to determine the percentage of city residents living within a 10-minute walk from a park, the number of parks per 10,000 residents, total park acreage, and total city population. Population per acre of livable land area was also obtained from ParkServe. 

The loser on the resulting list is Jacksonville, Florida, where only 35% of residents have walkable access to park space. That’s unfortunate for several reasons, not least because it’s the most populous city in the state, with close to a million residents. It is also the largest city by area in the contiguous United States, and one of the most abundant in parkland – more than 70,000 acres. People just don’t have easy access to it. (These are America’s largest city parks.) 

Three cities are tied for the No. 2 spot, with 38% of residents having walkable access: Louisville, Kentucky; Oklahoma City; and Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Perhaps coincidentally, the first two have similar-sized populations and around 18,000 acres of parks apiece. 

Click here to see the major US cities with the worst access to public parks

There are three Arizona cities on our list: Scottsdale, Gilbert, and Phoenix. Scottsdale is famous for its parklike golf courses, but only 40% of its residents have walkable access to parks. (If you like golf courses better anyway, consider the country’s 35 best cities to go golfing.)

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