Long Beach ranks No. 18 on national park-space index, but there’s work to do

The Trust for Public Land has released its annual ParkScore list, ranking the nation’s most populous cities on providing their citizens with easy access to green space, and Long Beach is officially in the top 20 for the first time.

Coming in at No. 18, Long Beach and other cities were analyzed by how many citizens are within a 10-minute walk of a park. Each city’s ranking was broken into three sections: Population density (weighted at 50%); density of children 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 does the ranking ultimately mean much? Yes and no.

Long Beach’s main struggles remain 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.

What is essentially important is that we’ve increased park space over the past two years. With the creation of spaces like Gumbiner Park, we’ve created more accessibility to green space.

However, there is still one glaring issue that contributes toward us not scoring higher: West Long Beach residents have a paltry acre per 1,000 residents or what amounts to about a soccer field. 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 of its residents. In fact, it’s legally deemed “park poor,” particularly compared to East Long Beach, which averages a staggering 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.

For this analysis, this point is not a jab but more a comparison to the No. 3 city: Minneapolis. The reason Minneapolis is a good comparison is not just its score as something to live up to but its physical dimensions: It is roughly 34,000 acres in size, a nice comparison to Long Beach and its largest park, Theodore Wirth Park, is comparable to El Dorado at 759 acres. Yet it has 5,064 acres of parks, a median park size of 6.6 acres, and spends some $232 on every resident to provide park space (compared to our $204 spent on every resident).

Minneapolis—despite age or income level—has less than 3 percent of its population unable to easily access a park by the ranking’s standard. (By the way, its neighbor St. Paul? It’s No. 2 in the nation as being park friendly.)

By comparison, nearly 20% of Long Beach’s total population is unable to easily access parks. And that burden falls disproportionately on West and North Long Beach, with the most park-poor areas also the most dense, the most youthful and the poorest.

Brian Addison is a columnist and editor for the Long Beach Post. Reach him at [email protected] or on social media at FacebookTwitterInstagram, and LinkedIn.

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