Jun 8, 2023 - News

How Atlanta's parks rank nationally

2023 ParkScore for Atlanta
Data: ParkScore; Chart: Kavya Beheraj/Axios

Atlanta is making strong investments in its parks, but has room for improvement when it comes to acreage and access, particularly among low-income residents and people of color.

What's happening: Atlanta ranks 28th among the 100 largest U.S. cities for its public parks, according to the latest report from the pro-parks nonprofit Trust for Public Land, Alex Fitzpatrick and Kavya Beheraj report.

  • The rating is based on a variety of metrics, including the percentage of residents who live near a park, the share of city land reserved for parks and parks investment.

Why it matters: Parks confer a wealth of benefits — including significant health boosts. Residents of the top 25 cities are less likely to report poor mental health or low physical activity, according to TPL.

By the numbers: Atlanta scored 66 out of 100 for access, 25 for acreage, 97 for investment, 64 for amenities and 48 for equity.

  • 77% of Atlanta residents live within a 10-minute walk of a park, according to TPL.

Yes, but: That access is lowest for neighborhoods with high concentrations of Black, Asian and Hispanic peoples. "Residents in neighborhoods of color have access to 7% less park space per person than the city's average neighborhood and 50% less than those in white neighborhoods," the report says.

Zoom in: The Atlanta City Council recently passed a measure to increase and earmark a larger portion of property taxes to pay for maintenance — which could improve equity and draw more people to nearby parks, Michael Halicki of Park Pride recently told Axios.

  • The parks department released an Equity Data Tool to study disparities in park access. A Trust for Public Land, Park Pride and Atlanta Public Schools program promotes communities being allowed to use nearby school playgrounds.

Reality check: Not every city park is a multi-acre masterpiece — yet even "pocket parks" and community garden lots grant physical, mental and social benefits.

  • "If there's a pocket park with no sports facilities at all, but I walked 12 minutes to get there and I walk 12 minutes home, I've got my 24 minutes of moderate activity for that day," Howard Frumkin, TPL's senior vice president and director of the nonprofit's Land and People Lab, said.

Of note: Atlanta has 449 parks, some of which are small traffic triangles smaller than a tenth of an acre.

What's next: TPL's report offers a bevy of recommendations for cities looking to boost their score, including expanding access (through better public transportation, for instance), starting drop-in sports programs, and exploring innovative partnerships with local health care organizations.

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