San Antonio parks fall near bottom in nonprofit's ranking

Rankings consider parks in 100 largest US cities

By Mariah Medina - Digital Journalist, RJ Marquez - Digital Content Curator

SAN ANTONIO - In comparison to other major cities across the U.S., San Antonio's park system needs some work, according to a nonprofit's ranking of the access to and quality of parks nationwide.

The Trust for Public Land released its ParkScore ranking, which analyzes data on park access nationwide, marking San Antonio 72 out of 100 of the largest cities in the nation.

The nonprofit said it keeps the most comprehensive data on parks across the nation and that the ParkScore ranking system is being used "to pinpoint the neighborhoods where parks are needed most."

SEE PARK RANKING LIST

According to the report, 42 percent of San Antonio residents live within a 10-minure walk of a park, which is lower than the national average of 54 percent.

Broken down by income, high-income households have less access to San Antonio parks than low-income households.

Data shows that 32 percent of high-income households in San Antonio are within a 10-minue walk of a park, while 48 percent of low-income households are within a 10-minute walk of a park.  

The Trust for Public Land's data shows that 10 percent of the city's land is used for parks and recreation, compared to the national median, which is 15 percent.

Sandy Jenkins, the city's parks projects manager, said that the ParkScore numbers don't take into account how many San Antonians value their privacy. 

SEE SAN ANTONIO'S PARKSCORE REPORT

"We have a lot of gated, private communities that have really great parks, but they're not accessible to the public," Jenkins said via phone Wednesday. "And part of our park land dedication ordinance requires all single-family and multifamily housing units to provide some type of recreation."

Jenkins said that much of the growth of San Antonio parks is unable to be considered for ranking purposes.

"We're contining to expand our parks, expand our greenways, expand our trail system, but when you can't count private parks or any of the parks that are available to residents, or schools who may not have an actual, bona fide agreement with (the city) but still allow kids to play around the playground or run around the track, we can't count those either," Jenkins said.

Still, Jenkins said there's always room for improvement.

"(The ranking) doesn't really give you the full picture, but it gives us a good benchmark in comparison to other cities -- Houston, Dallas, El Paso. It gives us other benchmarks," Jenkins said. "I think the bottom line is it tells us that San Antonians love their parks and we need more."

Jenkins said the city recently passed its Park System Plan, which includes increasing the percentage of San Antonians living within a 10-minute walk to a park.

THE OVERALL REPORT CARD:  

The TPL uses four key factors when it determines an overall park score: acreage, access, investment and amenities.

San Antonio scored a 75 out of 100 in acreage, but scored much lower, a 45 and a 30 respectively, in investment and amenities.

San Antonio scored the lowest in park access, only a 15 out of 100 possible points.

“The access score is if you could walk 10 minutes,” said Charlie McCabe, director of the Center for City Park Excellence at TPL. "That’s a good measure for a successful park system."

But there are some positives. San Antonio ranks in the Top 10 nationally in interconnected trails, and the River Walk extensions have been successful in connecting the Missions and areas north of downtown. 

“You have some amazing iconic parks. Brackenridge Park was established long ago, and has multiple reasons why people should go,” McCabe said.

San Antonio has also seen major growth with dog parks and ranks 4 out of 13 Texas cities on the list. 

“It speaks to the fact a lot of people have pets but they don’t have yards,” said McCabe.

Splash pads or spray-grounds remain an area of need. San Antonio ranks 8 out of 13 Texas cities. 

“It’s just another good amenity that meets the needs of people that may not have access to a pool or can drive to the beach or a lake,” said McCabe.

View the chart below for more information:

San Antonio Parks Score  by RJ Marquez on Scribd

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