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Houston Improves In Annual Rankings Of Park Access

FIgures show that it’s getting easier to walk to a park in Houston but the city still needs to find creative ways to provide green space. A new study says that’s especially important as people seek outdoor recreation during the coronavirus pandemic.

Busy weekday activity along the White Oak Bayou Trail.

Houston has moved up several spots in the 2020 ParkScore Index.

The Trust for Public Land annually ranks cities on how easily residents can walk to a park. The organization measures park access by the number of people within a 10-minute walk of a park and the percentage of city residents who live within a 10-minute walk. 

Right now in Houston that’s about 61% of residents. That’s a slight increase over last year’s numbers, but it’s still below the national average of 72%.

In this year’s ParkScore rankings Houston came in 78th among the top 100 cities. That’s up seven spots from 2019 when the city ranked 85th. 

“The big reason for the improvement was that Houston in the last year has made a considerable investment in its parks system,” said Robert Kent, statewide director for the Trust for Public Land. “We measure this by looking at the amount of money the city spends per resident. In 2019 the city spent $56.72 per resident but in the last year that’s increased by $26 per resident all the way up to $82.34.”

The Houston Parks and Recreation Department maintains close to 40,000 acres of park space, which doesn’t include parks that are maintained by other entities. But Kent said the reason Houston doesn’t rank higher on the list is that not everyone in the sprawling city has a park nearby. 

To fill that need, Kent said the city needs to look for creative solutions to bring more green space to its residents. But he said two of the things that are working in the city’s favor are the Bayou Greenways trails and the SPARK school parks program.  

“Finding opportunities to create some of these creative park spaces will make a difference,” Kent said. 

And with many people seeking outdoor recreation during the coronavirus pandemic, Kent said this only illustrates the need for more parks. He said from what they’ve seen around the country, many parks are now seeing weekend-level usage on weekdays. 

“We’ve all seen how the coronavirus crisis has caused budget challenges for cities across the country and we’re worried that we’re going to see a similar impact on our parks budgets,” Kent said. “And so we hope that the City of Houston will continue to make progress by investing in parks and keeping that as a funding priority in the years ahead.”

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Gail Delaughter

Gail Delaughter

Transportation Reporter

From early-morning interviews with commuters to walks through muddy construction sites, Gail covers all aspects of getting around Houston. That includes walking, driving, cycling, taking the bus, and occasionally flying. Before she became transportation reporter in 2011, Gail hosted weekend programs for Houston Public Media. She's also covered courts in...

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