Long Beach’s ParkScore Rank Drops; West, North LB Are (Still) in Dire Need of Parks

Photo by Brian Addison.

Long Beach’s ParkScore ranking—created by the Trust for Public Land that analyzes the ways parks are funded and how accessible they are in the nation’s 100 most populated cities—has dropped two spots since last year. Long Beach sits at #24 amongst the nation’s best cities for parks, sharing the spot with Oakland, Fremont, Las Vegas, Virginia Beach, and San Jose with a score of 62.5.

Ranking #24 out of 100 isn’t bad. In fact, 81% of all Long Beach residents can access some form of a park within a ten minute walk from their home. The addition of Gumbiner Park and the still-in-process freeway removal on the Westside help this accessibility.

So does the ranking ultimately mean much? Yes and no.

The “no” part is the fact that we’ve increased some benefits—and that is what is essentially important overall. We’re up 1% in overall access from 80% last year; minute but important. We’ve increased our spending to $204 per resident compared to $195 per resident last year.

So what caused us, at least according to ParkScore, to drop in ranking?

While we ranked high in the funding we put toward parks and catering to varied types of households, there is still one glaring issue that contributes to our static ranking: West and North Long Beach’s stunning lack of green space.

Of our 31,066 acres that span our boundary limits, 3,123 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 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 5,064 acres of parks, a median park size of 6.6 acres, and spends some $232 on every resident to provide park space.

Minneapolis—despite the age—has less than three percent of its entirely population unable to easily access a park by TPL’s standards. The same applies when including the income of individuals. (By the way, its neighbor St. Paul? It’s number two in the nation as being park friendly.)

By comparison, over nearly 20% of Long Beach’s total population is unable to access parks when age and income are considered—and it falls disproportionately on West and North Long Beach, with the most park poor areas also the most dense, the most youthful, and the poorest.

We have work to do, Long Beach.

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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.