Seattle ranks among top 10 park systems in the country

Seattle’s parks may have already been among the dearest in our hearts, and a recent ranking shows they’re also among the best in the country.

Seattle’s public park system was named eighth-best in the country by the nonprofit Trust for Public Land.

The study compared park systems across the 100 most populous cities in the United States, analyzing them across five categories: access, investment, amenities, acreage and equity. 

Seattle Parks and Recreation, with over 489 parks, climbed from the ninth spot last year. The park system is the largest landowner in Seattle, and contains one of the few complete Olmsted park systems — named after the son of an early pioneer of modern landscape design — in the country, said spokesperson Rachel Schulkin. John Charles Olmsted, Frederick Law Olmsted’s stepson, was the primary visionary of the Seattle park system.

Seattle’s ranking is “a recognition that our parks are unique and truly impactful assets for our city,” said Mayor Bruce Harrell in a news release. “Seattle is a city of natural beauty, made even more special by the dedicated work of park partners and professionals.”

Within the study’s top 25 cities, residents were 9% less likely to have poor mental health and 21% less likely to be physically inactive than those in lower-ranked cities, according to Trust for Public Land.

Urban Park System Table

Seattle scored highest (100 out of 100 points) in the investment category, which analyzed spending across all of a park system’s agencies and organizations.

Seattle Parks and Recreation spends $329 per Seattle resident each year on public parks and recreation, which is more than triple the national median spending of $108 per resident, according to the Trust for Public Land.

Some of Seattle Parks and Recreation’s biggest investments in the past year include projects to renovate the Fairmount Park play area and Jefferson Community Center, said Schulkin, which cost over $2.6 million combined.

Wade Helmich sits with Günther, his 5-year-old miniature Schnauzer, in his lap Thursday at Volunteer Park in Seattle.  (Luke Johnson / The Seattle Times)

The system’s largest expense is park and facility maintenance — $86 million per year — which includes staffing, utilities and equipment, Schulkin added.

The 100 most populous cities invested a total of over $9 billion in their parks, with San Francisco leading the pack at $480 per resident, according to the Trust for Public Land.

Seattle’s park system also ranked high in the access category, which analyzed how many residents live within a 10-minute (or half-mile) walk of a park. With 99% of Seattle’s population living this close to a park, the Emerald City scores among the highest in this category, with a score of 98 out of 100 points.

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