CLEVELAND, Ohio — Cleveland jumped this year from 35th to 29th place in the nonprofit Trust for Public Land’s ParkScore ranking of parks in the 100 most populous U.S. cities.
“It’s good progress for Cleveland,” Shanelle Smith Whigham, the Ohio director for the Trust, said in an interview earlier this week. “We’re moving up in the rankings.” The trust, which announced the new rankings Wednesday, raised Cleveland’s standing based largely on increased spending on parks, the organization said in a news release. The organization said Cleveland spent $137 per resident annually on parks, in comparison to the national average of $89. The trust wasn’t able to provide immediately Cleveland’s prior spending level. Whigham said the city also received a higher ranking for having improved parks including Miriam Ortiz-Rush Park in Detroit Shoreway and Glenview Park in Glenville. A spokesperson for Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson did not acknowledge receipt of an email seeking comment about the park ranking.
The trust compiles self-reported data from cities to create its ParkScore rankings. Minneapolis topped the 100 cities listed by the trust, pushing Washington, DC, into 2nd place. Founded in 1974 and based in San Francisco, the trust helps communities conserve and assemble land for parks. In Ohio, since 1978, it has conserved 17,500 acres in 117 separate projects representing nearly $183 million in fair market value. In Cuyahoga and six surrounding counties, the trust has conserved nearly 7,500 acres in 82 projects with a fair market value of $121 million. Those projects have benefited the Cuyahoga Valley National Park, Blossom Music Center in Cuyahoga Falls, and Rivergate Park and Canal Basin Park on the Cuyahoga River in Cleveland. The trust completed a study in January identifying five Cleveland neighborhoods most in need of a park.
It is also collaborating with the City of Cleveland and the Urban Land Institute on a $40,000 grant from the nonprofit National Recreation and Park Association to help train city employees in how to gather and interpret data for park planning. Whigham said that the coronavirus pandemic has underscored the significance of urban parks in America as a form of public space designed to improve health. Frederick Law Olmsted, who co-designed of New York’s Central Park during frequent cholera outbreaks in the 19th-century, called the park, “the lungs of the city.” The principle holds today, Whigham said. She said the Trust for Public Land recognizes that people are losing jobs in an economy damaged by the pandemic and witnessing deaths caused by COVID-19, the illness that can result from coronavirus infections. But at a time when municipal budgets are strained, she urged that parks should remain a high priority. “Parks may not be top of mind for many in our communities,’’ she said, “but getting outdoors in nature is good for coping and recovery. Parks should be seen as a solution and not be cut from city budgets.”