Long Beach Raises Score but Drops in Rank for National ParkScore

Out of the 60 most populated cities in the nation, Long Beach currently sits at 24 amongst the most park friendly cities as measured by The Trust for Public Land (TPL), dropping two places from last year.

Fear not: this doesn’t mean we haven’t improved.

Our total score increased since last year we saw a score of 52.5 while this year we saw a score of 54. But we ultimately failed in gaining as much additional park space as others cities did. Even worse, our neighbor to the north, Los Angeles, dropped 11 spaces from #34 to #45 this year (though it is worth mentioning that city boundaries are taken quite literally, leaving those who border other park-saturated cities or the Angeles National Forest to be disregarded. And let’s even get started on the question as to whether all parks are created equal…).

Does the ranking ultimately mean much? Yes and no.

The “no” part is the fact that we’ve increased our score—and that is what is essentially important overall. Our median park size has increased (big time) from 3.2 acres last year to 5 acres this year, largely due to spaces like the Harvey Milk Park and the Cesar Chavez Park enhancements. We’ve increased our spending per resident compared to last year: $146.67 per resident versus $125.

So where do we, at least according to TPL, fall in score?

Of our 31,066 acres that span our boundary limits, 3,121 acres of those are dedicated to parks—which should be noted that 763 of those park acres belong to El Dorado Park alone.

For this analysis, this point is not a jab more than a comparison to—yet again as I did last year—the No. 1 city in regard to ParkScore: Minneapolis. The reason why 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 5,055 acres of parks, a median park size of 7.1, and spends some $213 on every resident to provide park space.

Minneapolis—despite the age—has less than 10% of its entirely population unable to easily access a park by TPL’s standards. The same applies when including the income of individuals. By comparison, over 20% of Long Beach’s total population is unable to access parks when age and income are considered. This amounts to 21% of the 126,878 of the people living here, aged 19 or younger, not having access to a park (which is probably explained by the West Side: its residents have a paltry acre per 1,000 residents. That’s about the size of a soccer field).

Of course, it shouldn’t be shocking that the areas—at least according to TPL—that need more parks are those that which host the lowest incomes, the lowest age group, and have the highest density in terms of population.

The TPL increased its scope this year, adding the 10 most populous cities behind the top 50 to their list.

Other Californian cities outside of Los Angeles included the highest ranked San Francisco at #3; Sacramento at #7 (dropping four spots); San Diego at #9 (same as last year); Oakland at #13 (bumping up 5 spots from 2013); San Jose at #18 (dropping seven spots); Riverside at #34, Bakersfield and Anaheim tied at #36 (impressively making the list as neither made rank last year though it is unsure where they sat past the #50 mark); Santa Ana at #52; and Fresno at #60 (dropping ten places from #50 last year).

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Brian Addison has been a writer, editor, and photographer for more than a decade, covering everything from food and culture to transportation and housing. In 2015, he was named Journalist of the Year by the Los Angeles Press Club and has since garnered 16 nominations and two additional wins for Best Political Commentary for his work at KCET and Best Blog for Longbeachize, a section of the Long Beach Post. Brian currently serves as a columnist and editor for the Long Beach Post.