The percentage of land Fort Worth dedicates to parks and residents’ access to parks landed it near the bottom of an annual ranking of parks in the country’s 75 largest cities.
Fort Worth dropped from 40th in 2014 to 60th this year — tied with San Antonio and Detroit — earning just two park benches on the scale of one to five in the annual ParkScore ranking from The Trust for Public Land.
Arlington and Dallas tied with Atlanta tied for 47th.
Richard Zavala, director of parks and community services, said while the ParkScore information is useful, the rankings tend to be more favorable to areas that are smaller in square miles than Fort Worth.
“Once again, those cities that have a higher density of population have a tendency of scoring higher, simply because their population is more compact, versus the city of Fort Worth that is more dispersed and spread over 350 square-miles,” Zavala said.
The scores are based on park access, which measures the percentage of residents living within a 10-minute walk of a park; park size, which is based on a city’s median park size and the percentage of total city area dedicated to parks; and facilities and investment, which combines park spending per resident with the availability of four popular park amenities per resident.
“Our goal is for every American to live within a 10-minute walk of a park, and ParkScore is a good snapshot of how America's largest cities are doing in meeting that goal,” said Will Rogers, president of The Trust for Public Land, in a statement.
Other park systems in place
Zavala pointed out, however, that the Parkscore does not take into consideration the Tarrant Regional Water District trail system, unlike some cities, like El Paso, which included national park systems in their survey.
The scoring also does not take into the suburban and often sprawling-nature of development of this area, which means more people are further away from parks.
On spending per resident, the dollars did not include the state and federal grants Fort Worth has received, or the private money being leveraged in the local park system.
“Our modus operandi here in Fort Worth is to partner with local agencies and nonprofits to stretch the provision of our services,” Zavala said.
The city has re-focused on parks in recent years, with the 2014 bond program designating $31.44 million to parks over the next several years. The 2014 bond was the first time in a decade that parks were included in a bond package, and it is the most ever dedicated to parks in a Fort Worth bond program.
Residents want more
The push to focus on parks came from residents, who showed up at bond input meetings in mass, advocating for more athletic facilities, larger parks, new playground equipment and playgrounds and athletic fields for disabled students.
Urban parks, which aren’t limited to green space but can include plazas and be as small as a residential lot, are the part of the city’s attempt to get more park space in the more expensive to develop urban core.
The city has an acquisition policy meant to keep pace with rapid development: 2.5 acres for neighborhood parks per 1,000 people in a development and 3.75 acres for community parks per 1,000 people. The developments are required to front the initial fees to get the parks ready.
For inner-city developments, in lieu of acreage, the fee is $500 per dwelling to acquire and develop land.
This report includes information from Star-Telegram archives.
Caty Hirst, 817-390-7984
Fort Worth’s ParkScore
▪ The city ranked poorly in access to parks, with only 54 percent of the population living within a 10-minute walk of a public park. That’s compared to a national median of 71 percent (and 55 percent in Arlington).
▪ Fort Worth was just above the national median for investment per resident, spending $83.37 on parks per resident, compared to $83 nationally (and $86.49 per resident in Arlington).
▪ The percentage of land dedicated to parks was 5.5 percent, among the lowest in the country, compared to 9.1 percent nationally (and 7.7 percent in Arlington).
▪ Fort Worth’s median park size was above the national median of 5 acres at 7.5 acres acres (Arlington is 14.1 acres).
Fort Worth park facts
▪ Acreage: 11,722
▪ People served per park acre: 68
▪ Oldest municipal park: Hyde Park, established 1873
▪ Largest municipal park: Fort Worth Nature Center & Refuge, 3,631acres
▪ Most-visited municipal park: Trinity Park
Arlington park facts
▪ Acreage: 4,710
▪ People served per park acre: 81
▪ Oldest municipal park: Meadowbrook, established 1924
▪ Largest municipal park: River Legacy, 1,031acres
▪ Most-visited municipal park: River Legacy
Source: ParkScore (The Trust for Public Land)