Despite creating 45 parks in the last 10 years to serve a growing population, Fort Worth's parks system has been ranked in the middle of the pack in a survey of the 40 largest cities in the United States.
In the survey released today by The Trust for Public Land, the parks systems in San Francisco, Sacramento, Calif., Boston and New York topped the list.
Texas cities didn't fare as well. Fort Worth is ranked 24th, behind Austin, 19th, and Dallas, 21st. El Paso is 27th, Houston is 30th and San Antonio is near the bottom at 35th. Oklahoma City also fared poorly, coming in at 33rd.
Still, officials at the trust praised Fort Worth's efforts to keep pace with its booming growth.
The city added 206,512 people from 2000 to 2010 to reach a population of 741,206.
"Fort Worth has had a considerable increase in population, and the city has done a commendable job of improving their park system to keep pace with new development, adding 45 new parks in just a decade," Senior Vice President Ernest Cook said.
The Trust for Public Land is a nonprofit that promotes parks and playgrounds in urban areas.
In its ParkScore ratings, the group evaluates city park systems on a scale of zero to five.
It rates cities in three areas: park access, which measures the percentage of residents living within a 10-minute walk of a park; park size, including the city's median park size and the percentage of total city area dedicated to parks; and services and investment, which factors in playgrounds per 10,000 residents and park spending per capita.
Under those criteria, Fort Worth scored a 2.5.
In Fort Worth, the median park size is 7.4 acres, compared with 5.8 acres nationally. However, the city did not score as well on park access, with just 53 percent of residents within a 10-minute walk of a park.
The Trust for Public Land said the Trinity Trails, which include more than 40 miles of trails owned by the Tarrant Regional Water District, were included in the scoring system.
But Adelaide Leavens, executive director of Streams and Valleys, said Fort Worth's score should be higher if the trails were included.
"When one considers the number of homes within a 10-minute walk to the river greenbelt, it seems apparent that Fort Worth's rating would improve," Leavens said.
Another category in which Fort Worth scored poorly is parks that are not yet developed. But some of those are in areas where the population hasn't grown enough to support them.
"Until those areas see an increase in residents, the city is focused on developing parks closer to where people live, like the newly acquired 245-acre site of the future Northwest Community Park -- a great example of prioritizing new parks in growing areas of the city," Cook said.
The Northwest park, near Blue Mound and Harmon roads on the booming far north side, will have hiking trails and practice fields. The first phase is to be developed next year, with the park completed by late spring 2014.
Fort Worth Mayor Betsy Price called parks a key component of the city and said officials will continue working to add more in coming years.
"The people of Fort Worth embrace and value the role parks play in contributing toward the quality of life in our city," Price said in a statement. "With their support, and by leveraging opportunities through public and private partnerships, we will continue to expand and improve green space for current and future generations."
Parks director Richard Zavala said he couldn't comment on the report until he saw all of the data that went into it. But he noted that Fort Worth's parks have always scored well with residents.
"The city of Fort Worth's commitment to useful and essential parkland and open space in our communities has deep roots," Zavala said. "They can be traced all the way back to 1909, when renowned landscape architect George Kessler first developed a park plan for Fort Worth."
Bill Hanna, 817-390-7698