New Rankings Say Louisville’s Parks System Needs Work

Louisville has scored near the bottom on a new ranking of park systems in the nation’s 40 largest cities. The city came in 38th.

The Trust for Public Land scored the park systems on criteria including park size, the city’s investments in the parks and park access, which measures the percentage of residents living with a half-mile of a park. On a scale of zero to five park benches, Louisville received one lonely park bench.

The city did well on measurements of park size, thanks to behemoths like the Frederick Law Olmsted-designed Cherokee and Shawnee parks, but the city didn't do so well on park access.

Peter Harnick of the Trust for Public Land says some of the problems identified by the report can be traced back to Louisville’s city-county merger.

“When you have a small city that goes back a couple hundred years when people were almost walking distance from their parks, and then you merge with your surrounding county and pick up tremendous acreage of suburban and relatively undeveloped and almost rural land, of course that’s going to put a challenge to get everybody within a ten minute walk to their park,” he says.

John Hamilton, Assistant to the Director at Metro Parks, agrees with the assessment that merger did complicate the city’s park access, thought he notes that absorbing suburbs did add several valuable parks to the city’s inventory.

Besides the city’s acreage issue, Hamilton concedes that Louisville’s per capita park spending and number of playgrounds is much lower than other cities. But he predicts future projects will eventually help improve the city’s score.

“21st Century Parks is going to make a great deal of difference,” he said. “So is the Louisville Loop. When you think about building a 105 mile track around the city, thousands of people are going to be within minutes of the Louisville Loop.”

The only cities ranked below Louisville were Charlotte, North Carolina and Fresno, California. San Francisco got the highest rating. To see the rankings, visit the Park Score website.

Erica Peterson

Erica Peterson reports on energy and the environment for WFPL.

@ericampeterson

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