Louisville is at the bottom of a list ranking American cities based on their parks for the second year in a row.
The city was ranked 49th out of 50 in this year’s ParkScore ranking from the Trust for Public Lands. The ranking pits the nation’s 50 biggest cities against each other, using metrics like per capita park spending, park size and park access.
This is about where Louisville was last year, though that ranking only included 40 cities. Peter Harnik of the Trust for Public Lands says the city didn’t score well on measures like the total amount of city land devoted to parks, and the percentage of residents who live within a 10 minute walk of a park. Harnik says both of those reflect Louisville’s new boundaries after merger, and the fact that most of the parks were planned decades ago in the old city.
“[Louisville] had an old-fashioned wonderful park system, partly built by Frederick Law Olmsted and a lot of other people that served its residents very well,” he said. “And if we were still measuring the pre-merger city, it would score much higher.”
Metro Parks spokeswoman Julie Kredens agreed that Louisville’s population density is a factor that hurts it in the ParkScore ranking, as is its overall low per capita spending on parks. Metro Parks’ operating budget is about $17 million a year, but that doesn’t include parks spending by entities like the Waterfront Development Corporation or non-profit 21st Century Parks.
Kredens says there are other, qualitative factors that ParkScore can’t measure, too.
“This ranking system doesn’t speak to the satisfaction with our parks, either, the condition or usage of them,” she said. “Previous market research has shown that we get pretty good marks from people who enjoy Louisville parks. So we’re pretty happy about that.”
Kredens says projects that are in the works–like the Louisville Loop–will help increase green space and connectivity. And once the Parklands of Floyds Fork is finished, it will help increase Louisville’s total park acreage, but not necessarily access because it’s in a sparsely-populated area of the county. Harnik says his analysis shows the areas in between the Watterson and Gene Snyder suffer from lack of park access.