City Not So Beautiful? Denver Parks Fail to Make the Country's Top 10. Again.

June 2013

When it comes to parks, Denver is slipping. Sort of.

Last year, Denver landed at number 13 on the Trust for Public Land’s inaugural ParkScore rankings—a measure of park acreage, access, and investment in the country’s biggest cities. This year, we dropped to number 17, lagging behind Colorado Springs and even Omaha (!).

We blame Minneapolis. And the Springs. And Omaha. Last year the list only included the 40 largest cities, which conveniently eliminated those towns from consideration. When the Trust expanded the list to the 50 largest American cities, the Vikes nabbed the number one spot, Omaha came in at 11, and Colorado Springs snagged number 14. (We’d be more upset about the Springs besting us, but we figure they can use all the good news they can get this week.)

The rankings are based on the three components the Trust deems the “most important characteristics of an effective park system:” acreage (median park size and acres as a percentage of the city area), service and investment (city, regional, and federal agency spending on parks per resident, and playgrounds per 100,000 residents), and access (percentage of the population living within a 10-minute walk of a public park).

We do pretty well when it comes to spending ($131.33 per resident) and access (almost 80 percent of us can walk to a park in 10 minutes—probably more if the survey accounted for Denverites' awesome fitness levels).

But we’ve got a ways to go when it comes to parkland as a percentage of the city. Our measly 6 percent puts us about on par with Cleveland and Detroit. Detroit? In fact, of the top 25 cities, none rank lower on this metric than Denver. (The Trust’s parks heat map especially highlights the need for more green spaces in South Denver—particularly in the area south of U.S. 6 near Lakewood.) We’d also do well to pay a bit more attention to our littlest citizens: We’ve got only 2.5 playgrounds per 100,000 residents.

Then again, who needs playgrounds when you’ve one of the country’s best children’s museums, and a few thousand square miles of (mostly) green space just a few miles west.

Jeopardy Prep: “Denver Parks”

  • Park acreage: 5,900 acres
  • Median park size: 6.29 acres
  • People served per park acre: 80
  • Oldest park: Mestizo Curtis Park, established 1881
  • Largest park: City Park, 314 acres
  • Most visited park: City Park  

Image courtesy of Shutterstock

Follow senior editor Kasey Cordell on Twitter (@KaseyCordell)