Portland and Seattle are known for their parks — and now they have the accolades to prove it.
Both cities rank among the top 10 in the nation, according to ParkScore, an annual ranking system designed by the Trust for Public Land. Seventy-five of the country's biggest cities get points for such factors as the percentage of city land devoted to parks, funding for park maintenance and park access for residents. Portland tied with New York City for fifth place this year. Seattle has moved up from 14th place to ninth.
"A combination of history, political culture, willingness to spend money on a shared enterprise like parks, and public involvement" give Portland and Seattle their high scores, said Peter Harnik, director of the Center for City Park Excellence at the Trust for Public Land.
He said both Portland and Seattle have a lot of park land within city limits. Portland's Forest Park is almost as large as all of Seattle's parkland combined, in fact. But their high scores also have a lot to do with how responsive both cities are to residents' needs. Portland leads all 75 cities in the study for its number of dog parks, for instance.
Also, the vast majority of Portland and Seattle residents are within easy walking distance of a park.
“Eighty-five percent of all Portlanders are within a half-mile, 10-minute walk of a park,” Harnik said. “Seattle does even better. Seattle’s at 93 percent.”
Seattle climbed into the ranking's top 10 from a rank of 14 in 2014. Harnik said that's in part because in past years the city had underestimated its parkland acreage.
"The city did a recount of its acreage and it turned out that it had been undercounting acreage last year," Harnik said.
He also credited Seattle for being a top-ranked city for public park space, despite being an urban area where the high price of land makes it tough to acquire more parkland.
"Seattle is one of the most creative cities in squeezing more parkland," Harnik said, citing as examples Freeway Park and GasWorks Park.
Minneapolis and St. Paul tied for first place in this year’s ParkScore. Harnik said the Trust for Public Land wants to work with every city in the country to improve its ranking.