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Buffalo's parks get middling 'ParkScore' grade among 100 biggest cities

Buffalo has long taken pride in its parks, but a national nonprofit group ranks the Queen City's system as near the middle among cities nationwide.

The Trust for Public Land puts Buffalo's parks at No. 58 among the 100 biggest cities in terms of its "ParkScore," which looks at park acreage, public access, investment and amenities, the group said.

The organization, which looked at data for land owned by regional, state and federal agencies in the city, reviewed categories including parks spending per capita, the number of playgrounds, dog parks, recreation centers and basketball hoops, as well as how many people live within a 10-minute walk of a park.

"Everyone in America deserves to live within a 10-minute walk of a park. Parks are proven to improve physical and mental health, increase property values and bring neighbors together to nurture the personal bonds that make our communities special," said Charlie McCabe, director of the Trust for Public Land’s Center for City Parks Excellence, in a news release.

On a scale of a 100, Buffalo got a ParkScore of 46.5, which put it just ahead of Arlington, Texas, and just behind Phoenix. Minneapolis had the best ranking in the country, according to the analysis. Fort Wayne and Indianapolis were tied for the worst ranking.

Here are some key findings about Buffalo in the analysis:

  • Buffalo has 1,913 acres of parkland, representing 8 percent of land in the city. Nationally, the average is 9.3 percent.
  • Eighty-five percent of Buffalonians live within a 10-minute walk of a park, the group found. The national average was 66 percent.
  • Of all the individual categories measured, Buffalo scored best in the number of basketball hoops per 10,000 residents. Buffalo has 6.3 hoops per 10,000 people, the analysis found. The average was 2.6.
  • $48.39 is the per capita spending on parks in Buffalo. The national average was $80 per person.
  • The city has 2.3 playgrounds per 10,000 residents, slightly less than the national average of 2.4 per 10,000.
  • Buffalo has 0.8 dog parks per 100,000 residents. The average was 0.9.
  • In terms of recreation and senior centers, the city has 0.7 centers per 20,000 residents, just below the average of 0.8.

Buffalo came in 52nd in last year's rankings. For more on the group's methodology, click here.

The organization also mapped areas of the city it said were in need of park access.

A map showing the level of need for parks in Buffalo. (Courtesy of The Trust for Public Land)

Despite the ranking from the Trust for Public Land, Buffalo has received accolades for its parks, including in 2014 when the American Planning Association put Delaware Park on its list of "10 Great Public Spaces."

Buffalo was designed with its park system incorporated and the city has been working to improve its facilities, having spent approximately $52 million on capital improvements during the Brown administration, said Andrew R. Rabb, deputy commissioner for parks and recreation.

"We are proud of our parks," Rabb said.

The ParkScore summarizes some measures of parks and their accessibility but only includes dedicated city and county parkland, he said. The review doesn't include other open spaces used for recreation, like those on school grounds, college campuses or on properties owned by the Buffalo Municipal Housing Authority, Rabb added.

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