The Trust for Public Land has released its annual ParkScore list, ranking the nation’s most populous cities on providing their citizens easy access to green space, and Long Beach had fallen out of the top 20, going from 18 to 23 in this year’s rankings.
For the ranking, the Trust analyzed cities based on how many residents are within a 10-minute walk of a park. For places within a city that fall outside of a 10-minute walk, areas were analyzed through 3 different approaches: Population density (weighted at 50%); density of people age 19 and younger (weighted at 25%); and density of households with income less than 75% of the regional median household income (weighted at 25%).
So why did Long Beach drop 5 spots over the course of a single year?
“Bluntly put, spending significantly dropped in Long Beach,” Charlie McCabe of the Trust told the Post. “While 84% of Long Beach’s residents live within a 10-minute walk to a park, there was a decline in capital improvement projects while your neighbors—mainly Los Angeles, Anaheim and Irvine—all saw an increase in infrastructural investment for green space.”
Irvine was California’s highest-scoring city, at No. 7, followed by San Francisco (No. 8), and San Diego (No. 18). Los Angeles came in at No. 49.
Long Beach’s main struggle remains access to green space in the park-poor areas of West, North, and Central Long Beach, with West Long Beach lacking the most green space out of any part of the city.
“There’s definitely work to do in Long Beach,” said Sadiya Muqueeth of the Trust. “This becomes particularly evident as the COVID pandemic can act as a portal to see how parks are drivers of health and equity. Spending time in nature is key for our mental health and will be a community value held up even higher during these times.”
West Long Beach residents continue to have a paltry 1 acre per 1,000 residents. This is far below the National Recreation and Parks Association’s standards for a healthy city, set at a minimum of 10 acres of parks for every 1,000 residents. By comparison, East Long Beach averages 16.7 acres per 1,000 residents thanks to the massive 650-acre El Dorado Park.
Of the 31,066 acres of land within our city limits, 3,123 acres are dedicated to parks. El Dorado Park makes up the biggest single chunk of that mass.
As park spaces begin to slowly open up as authorities ease stay-at-home rules, McCabe notes that park upkeep is going to be a challenge with tights budgets.
Long Beach’s Interim Park Director Steven Scott says the department is still in the process of finalizing its budget, but the parks are undoubtedly valuable.
“Certainly, parks play an important role in both mental and physical health, even extending into our psychological and developmental health,” Scott said. “They calm us, allow community building … But the reality is that these benefits are always there, COVID or not. And we will continue to expand and increase the quality of our parks in whatever situation we find ourselves in.”
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