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Aug 18th
Miami Gets a Grade PDF Print E-mail
Written by Janet Goodman, BT Contributor; Cover and spread photos by Armando Colls   
August 2019

Public parks. National ranking. Barely average.

The Trust for Public Land has released its annual ratings of city park systems. Miami didn’t shine, but other Biscayne Corridor towns did well.

ICoverStory_Cover_Shot_8-19n four years as the “Park Patrol” columnist for Biscayne Times, I’ve learned that parks are much more than just nice places to visit for picnics or basketball or dog walks. In them, we reconnect with nature and our community. They’re our happy childhood memories, places to build up our bodies and decompress from our crazy lives. In them, we’re free to be ourselves, to relax, to think, to enjoy life. They belong to us. But more than that... Our parks, they are us.

I’ve also learned that parks are forever works in progress. They need our continued attention, our continued and increased funding for maintenance and improvements.

I have great admiration for the citizens and activists who refuse to become complacent about the need to protect our parks. They know that to neglect parks is to say that we’re not worthy, that parks themselves are not worthy. Neglect leaves the door open for craven public officials to exploit our public lands by stripping agency budgets or forcing departments to commercialize and produce revenue.

The City of Miami manages 167 parks, which serve nearly half a million residents. I have reviewed 14 of those parks, located mostly along the Biscayne Corridor. Each one is unique, with specific strengths and weaknesses. Some are waterfront parks, located on either Biscayne Bay, Little River, or the Miami River. Some have less nature and more in amenities, such as playgrounds and community centers.

CoverStory_1_Lead_8-19Only one -- Simpson Park -- is simply and wonderfully a hardwood hammock wilderness, a glimpse of what South Florida looked like when pioneers first settled here in the late 1800s. E. Albert Pallot Park has a magnificent bay view, but not much else. Woefully under water many days of the year and certainly neglected, Little River Pocket Park is targeted to benefit from last year’s bond issue vote and new interest in sea level rise resiliency. José Martí Park, located on the Miami River, is scheduled for a complete overhaul to make it water tight. Although it took years, Charles Hadley Park is by far the most improved Miami park I’ve visited. And if you want a beautiful park with a view, Peacock, Baywood, and Margaret Pace Park are must-sees.

Hefty investments are essential to maintain healthy parks. More investment is needed to acquire land for new parks and to expand existing parks. Park amenities need constant cleaning, repair, and sometimes total renovation in order to ensure high quality. Funding is everything.


ECoverStory_2nter the Trust for Public Land, a national non-profit group founded in 1972 that conserves land for public use and compiles data on parks in thousands of U.S. towns and cities. TPL may be most famous for its ten-minute-walk initiative to put a public park within a ten-minute walk of every home in the nation.

TPL collects its data on 13,913 U.S. towns, cities, and communities using Census data, the ESRI geographic information system, municipal websites, and personal contact with each locale to obtain data on its parks. On TPL’s #10MinWalk Parkserve link (www.tpl.org/parkserve), you can plug in the name of any town, no matter how small (or so it seems), and see how many residents live within a ten-minute walk according to age, income, and race/ethnicity; how many parks there are; what percentage of land is used for parks; and where parks are most needed in that place.

Since 2012, TPL has also released an annual ParkScore index of large U.S. cities, based on factors such as acreage, investment, amenities, and access, to measure how they are meeting residents’ need for parks. Need is assigned to regions falling outside the ten-minute walk area, according to weighted population measures: population density, density of children 19 and younger, and density of households earning less than 75 percent of the regional median income.

CoverStory_4The first ParkScore ranked just the 40 largest cities, but the list has expanded through the years and, since 2016, has ranked the nation’s 100 largest cities. Today those hundred cities hold a total of 23,727 public parks.

“Because we’ve been releasing ParkScore since 2012,” explains Joanna Fisher, TPL’s press secretary, “we have great established relationships with the city park agencies, and work closely with them to make sure we get all the data we need.” Because the information is also public, she adds, it is easily verified.

Those four ParkScore factors are each broken down into smaller component measures, and they look like this:

• Acreage: the city’s median park size and parkland as a percentage of city area.

• Investment: spending per resident, e.g., public funds, non-profit funds, volunteer hours.

• Amenities: basketball hoops, off-leash dog parks, playgrounds, recreation and senior centers, restrooms, and splashpads and spraygrounds.

• Access: park location within a ten-minute walk or one-half mile from residents’ homes.

Maps of cities and their parks, as well city regions determined to be most in need of parks, are available at www.tpl.org/parkscore.

Access is important, according to TPL, because 11.2 million people in those 100 largest U.S. cities don’t live within ten minutes of a park. Among all U.S. municipalities, 100 million Americans lack a park within a ten-minute walk of home.

In TPL’s overall rankings, Miami in 2019 doesn’t score among the top 10 cities, or the top 25, or even the top 50. Out of a possible 100 points, the 10 best-rated cities are:

1) Washington, D.C. 83.8

2) Saint Paul 83.2

3) Minneapolis 81.8

4) Arlington, Virginia 81.3

5) Portland 79.7

6) Irvine, California 79.2

7) San Francisco 79.0

8) Cincinnati 78.3

9) New York City 76.0

10) Chicago 75.4


MCoverStory_5iami (population 452,162) ranks 54th in the 2019 ParkScore and has been ticking lower through the years, down from 50th last year, 48th in 2017, and 52nd in 2016.

Miami’s overall rating, which is an average of the four ParkScore factors, was a mediocre 47.8. Here’s a breakdown of those factors:

• Acreage: 27.5 points. The average Miami park size is 2.6 acres, with parkland being 7 percent of city area. Miami has 167 parks. (The average park size in first-place Washington, D.C., is 1.4 acres, but parkland constitutes an impressive 21 percent of the city area; Washington has 629 parks.)

• Investment: 35 points. $77 per resident (Washington, D.C., spends $270).

• Access: 80 points. 86 percent of residents are within a ten-minute walk of a park (98 percent of D.C. residents have a ten-minute walk to a park).

• Amenities: 49 points. Basketball hoops per 10,000 residents: 3.1; dog parks per 100,000 residents: 0.9; splashpads per 100,000 residents: 0; playgrounds per 10,000 residents: 1.3; restrooms per 10,000 residents: 3.8; recreation/senior centers per 20,000 residents: 1.6 (By comparison, Washington’s amenities score: 82.5.

CoverStory_6A map of Miami’s park system pinpoints areas of the city where residents lack access to parks. Five areas most in need are indicated on TPL’s online map. Four are located south of the Miami River in the West Miami area south and southwest of MIA airport; one is located west of I-95 in Allapattah and Brownsville.

“While we do gain some helpful big-picture perspective from the statistical data that outside organizations like the Trust provide, annual statistical snapshots don’t fully capture each city’s unique characteristics or progress being made on the ground,” says John Heffernan, deputy director of the city’s Office of Communications, in response to questions from the BT. In fact, Miami’s ParkScore has only minimally fluctuated over the past three years, he notes, adding, “One area where our departmental strategy aligns closely with the Trust’s metrics, however, is in providing parks within a ten-minute walk of all residents. To that end, the city has purchased nearly 20 properties since 2016 to help ensure this goal is met.”

The city is in active negotiations to acquire additional parcels, he says, and the Parks Department’s annual budget has grown in the past three years, “signaling the city’s commitment to continued investment in maintaining parks and investing in parks.”

Miami’s ParkScore for “Investment” isn’t based on budgeted funding, but on actual spending. According to the city’s Office of Management and Budget, the Parks and Recreation Department spent the following amounts in recent fiscal years:

2015-16: $36,360,020

2016-17: $42,312,435

2017-18: $46,456,057

2018-19: $47,754,000 (adopted)

2019-20: $51,777,000 (proposed)


SCoverStory_7ix Florida cities are included in TPL’s list of 100 largest U.S. city park systems. Besides Miami, they are Hialeah, St. Petersburg, Tampa, Orlando, and Jacksonville.

 

• Acreage: 22.5 points. Average park size: 4.4 acres, with parkland 2 percent of city area. Hialeah has 31 parks.

• Investment: 7.5 points. $31.50 per resident.

• Access: 55 points. 68 percent of residents are within a 10-minute walk of a park.

• Amenities: 40 points. Basketball hoops per 10,000 residents: 3; dog parks per 100,000 residents: 0; splashpads per 100,000 residents: 1.7; playgrounds per 10,000 residents: 0.7; restrooms per 10,000 residents: 1; recreation/senior centers per 20,000 residents: 1.5

St. Petersburg (258,759) is the highest-ranking Florida city on the 100 largest cities list. It comes in 17th with an overall score of 68.1 out of 100 points. Its category scores are:

• Acreage: 55 points. Average park size: 3.5 acres, with parkland 16 percent of city area. St. Pete has 168 parks.

• Investment: 77.5 points. $140 per resident

• Access: 65 points. 75 percent of residents are within a 10-minute walk of a park.

• Amenities: 75 points. Basketball hoops per 10,000 residents: 4.1; dog parks per 100,000 residents: 2.3; splashpads per 100,000 residents: 1.2; playgrounds per 10,000 residents: 3.5; restrooms per 10,000 residents: 4.8; recreation/senior centers per 20,000 residents: 1.2.

No. 44 for 2019 is Tampa, population 377,193, with a score of 51.3, broken down as follows:

• Acreage: 40 points. Average park size: 4.5 acres, with parkland 8 percent of the city area. Tampa has 194 parks.

• Investment: 32.5 points. $71.39 per resident.

• Access: 45 points. 62 percent of residents live within a 10-minute walk of a park.

Amenities: 88 points. Basketball hoops per 10,000 residents: 6; dog parks per 100,000 residents: 4; splashpads per 100,000 residents: 2.6; playgrounds per 10,000 residents: 2.3; restrooms per 10,000 residents: 2.8; recreation/senior centers per 20,000 residents: 1.8.

Orlando (269,558) comes in at 47th, with score of 50.1.

• Acreage: 30 points. Average park size: 3.4 acres, with parkland 6.2 percent of the city area. Orlando has 238 parks.

• Investment: 65 points. $121 per resident.

• Access: 47.5 points. 63 percent of residents live within a 10-minute walk of a park.

• Amenities: 58 points. Basketball hoops per 10,000 residents: 5; dog parks per 100,000 residents: 1; splashpads per 100,000 residents: 0; playgrounds per 10,000 residents: 2; restrooms per 10,000 residents: 4.2; recreation/senior centers per 20,000 residents: 1.5.

Jacksonville (907,674) ranks 78th and has a score of 38.9.

• Acreage: 65 points. Average park size: 5.8 acres, with parkland 15 percent of the city area. Jacksonville has 411 parks.

• Investment: 22.5 points. $57.26 per resident.

• Access: 5 points. 35 percent of residents live within a 10-minute walk of a park.

• Amenities: 63 points. Basketball hoops per 10,000 residents: 2.4; dog parks per 100,000 residents: 0.6; splashpads per 100,000 residents: 2.1; playgrounds per 10,000 residents: 3.6; restrooms per 10,000 residents: 6.1; recreation/senior centers per 20,000 residents: 1.3.

TPL has also been tracking the rise of off-leash dog parks since 2009 and notes that they’ve become the fastest-growing park amenity. The 2019 ranking of 100 largest cities counts 810 dog parks among them, up from 773 in 2018. (In 2009, TPL counted just 466 dog parks in U.S. municipal parks.)

Tampa is the only Florida city to rank in the top 10 BarkScores, coming in at No. 5, behind Boise, Portland, Henderson (Nevada), and Norfolk, and tied with San Francisco. For perspective, No. 1 Boise (population 227,531) has 13 dog parks, or 5.7 per 100,000 residents. Tampa (population 379,551) has 15 dog parks, or 4 per 100,000 residents. While San Francisco has more than twice the population (878,294) and more than twice the parks (35), the ratio of parks per residents is the same as Tampa’s.

Here’s how the other Florida cities fared in BarkScores:

15) St. Petersburg: (pop. 260,094) 6 dog parks.

48) Orlando: (286,678) 3 dog parks.

52) Miami: (453,952) 4 dog parks.

72) Jacksonville: (907,722) 5 dog parks.

95) Hialeah: (233,504) 0 dog parks.


ACoverStory_8mong all U.S. cities reporting park data in the annual TPL survey, one sport has soared in popularity: pickleball. This low-impact court game is a mix of ping-pong and tennis. The number of pickleball courts has increased 38 percent in the past year, mostly due to active seniors.

ParkScore data on park size are interesting, too. Here are the highlights in terms of acreage:

Largest city park: McDowell Sonoran Preserve in Scottsdale (30,500 acres).

Florida’s largest city park: Loblolly Mitigation Preserve in Jacksonville (4201 acres).

Largest regional/county park within a city: George Bush Park in Houston (8043 acres).

Florida’s largest regional/county park within a city: Bulls Bay Preserve in Jacksonville (1220 acres).

Largest state park within a city: Chugach State Park in Anchorage (464,318 acres).

Florida’s largest state park within a city: Cary State Forest in Jacksonville (8322 acres).

Largest federal park within a city: Chugach National Forest in Anchorage (245,653 acres).

Florida’s largest federal park within a city: Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve in Jacksonville (31,486 acres).


ACoverStory_9s noted, TPL also keeps data on smaller U.S. cities, and you can search the database for your city, your hometown, or some other small city at www.tpl.org/parkscore. These listings look at the ten-minute walk gold standard and ask what percentage of residents have access to a park within a ten-minute walk, what percentage of city land is used for parks and recreation, how many parks there are, and where there is the greatest need for parks.

The following alphabetical list shows how the smaller Biscayne Corridor cities fare in their TPL assessments. For comparison, the national small-city average of residents who live within a ten-minute walk of a park is 54 percent; the national small-city average of public land used for parks and recreation is 15 percent. “People served” in each entry refers to the number of people within a ten-minute walk to the park.

 

Aventura: (39,335) 81 percent of the residents live within a 10-minute walk of a park. Just one percent of city land is used for parks and recreation. The highest need for parks is on the northeastern border and southern city border.

Total parks: 6

1) Waterways Park, 6.8 acres, 3800 people served.

2) Waterways Dog Park, 1.6 acres, 4019 people served.

3) Aventura Founders Park and 4) Founders Park Bayside, 11.2 acres, 4485 people served.

5) Arthur I. Snyder Memorial Park, 0.5 acre, not open to the public.

6) Veterans Park, 2 acres, 5553 people served.

 

Bay Harbor Islands: (6645) 100 percent of residents live within a 10-minute walk of a park; two percent of city land is used for parks and recreation.

Total parks: 8

1) North Passive Park (Triangle), 0.2 acres, 461 people served.

2) South Passive Park, 0.7 acres, 2544 people served.

3) 98th Street Park and 4) 98th Street Dog Park, 0.5 acres, 5476 people served.

5) 94th Street Tennis Court/Park, 2.1 acres, 5206 people served.

6) 92nd Street Dog Park, 0.5 acres, 3668 people served.

7) 92nd Street Park, 0.7 acres, 3496 people served.

8) Bay Harbor Islands Tot Lot, 0.6 acres, 1232 people served.

 

Biscayne Park: (2972) 94 percent of residents live within a 10-minute walk of a park; one percent of city land is used for parks and recreation. The area of highest park need is in the northeast border of the triangle-shaped city.

Total parks:1

1) Ed Burke Recreation Center, 3.9 acres, 2935 people served (Biscayne Park has many large grassy medians that are not included in the park data).

 

El Portal: (2171) 99 percent of residents live within a 10-minute walk of a park; 0 percent of city land is used for parks and recreation. TPL indicates that El Portal lacks parks in its northwest corner near I-95.

Total parks: 2

1) Sherwood Forest Park, 0.3 acres, 2549 people served.

2) El Portal Tot Lot, 0.3 acres, 2646 people served.

 

Golden Beach: (972) 91 percent of residents live within a 10-minute walk of a park; four percent of city land is used for parks and recreation. The city’s highest-need area is in the northeastern section along Ocean Boulevard.

Total parks: 4

1) North Park (Triangle), 1.7 acres, 372 people served.

2) South Park (Triangle), 1.6 acres, 1560 people served.

3) John Tweddle Park, 2.2 acres, 2998 people served.

4) Loggia Beach Park, 0.5 acres, not open to the public.

 

Miami Shores: (11,569) 56 percent of residents live within a 10-minute walk of a park; 8 percent of city land is used for parks and recreation. TPL maps indicate high need of park space along the western edge of Miami Shores, mostly in the northwest quadrant west of NE 2nd Avenue and north of 103rd Street.

Total parks: 7

1) Miami Shores Village Memorial Park, 0.9 acres, 3173 people served.

2) Miami Shores Optimist Park, 0.05 acres, 2919 people served.

3) Constitution Park, 1.0 acres, 1516 people served.

4) Miami Shores Recreation Complex, 8.9 acres, 1846 people served (includes the tot lot).

5) Miami Shores Country Club, 118.8 acres, 6571 people served.

6) Miami Shores Aquatic Center, 0.6 acres, 3580 people served.

7) North Bayshore Park, 0.5 acres, 988 people served.

(There are actually two additional parks to mention: Miami Shores Village Sculpture Garden, 0.5 acres and Miami Shores Dog Park, 0.27 acres.)

 

North Bay Village: (8184) 88 percent of residents live within 10-minute walk of a park; 0 percent of city land is used for parks and recreation. The areas of highest need are on the northeast and southern tip of North Bay Island and the western section of Treasure Island.

Total parks: 2

1) Paul Vogel Park, 0.5 acres, 3211 people served.

2) Galleon Street Tot Lot (now called the Philip Schonberger Memorial Playground), 0.3 acres, 4160 people served.

 

North Miami: (61,944) 76 percent of residents live within a 10-minute walk of a park; 17 percent of city land is used for parks and recreation. The TPL map shows a need for parks in the center of North Miami, east and west of West Dixie Highway.

Total parks: 18

1) Claude Pepper Park, 13.2 acres, 4527 people served.

2) Ben Franklin Park, 6.1 acres, 4305 people served.

3) Sunkist Grove Community Center, 1.7 acres, 5242 people served.

4) Sasso Park, 1.6 acres, 4968 people served.

5) Kiwanis Park, 1.3 acres, 5048 people served.

6) Oleander Park, 1.2 acres, 5782 people served.

7) Breezeswept Tot Lot, 1.6 acres, 6606 people served.

8) Griffing Park, 2.4 acres, 6184 people served.

9) Cagni Park, 9.2 acres, 9464 people served.

10) Enchanted Forest Park, 22.3 acres, 6746 people served.

11) Arch Creek Park, 10.3 acres, 4554 people served.

12) Highland Village Community Center, 2.4 acres, 2303 people served.

13) Oleta River State Park, 1032.8 acres, 9177 people served.

14) Sans Souci Tennis Center, 2.0 acres, 5751 people served.

15) North Bayshore William Lehman Park, 1.2 acres, 1573 people served.

16) Keystone Park, 0.5 acre, 2721 people served.

17) Rotary-Overbrook Shores Tot Lot, 0.4 acres, 4840 people served.

18) North Miami Tot Lot, 1.2 acres, 3914 people served.

 

North Miami Beach: (43,263) 91 percent of residents live within a 10-minute walk of a park; seven percent of city land is used for parks and recreation. The area of highest need is by 167th Street/N. Miami Beach Boulevard and NE 10th Avenue.

Total parks: 31

1) Milton Littman Park, 1.3 acres, 2493 people served.

2) Old Dolphin Park, 0.2 acres, 4324 people served.

3) Uleta Pool Community Center, 4.1 acres, 6418 people served.

4) Snake Creek Linear Park, 6.3 acres, 14,549 people served.

5) Columbia Tot Lot, 0.3 acres, 5848 people served.

6) Senator Gwen Margolis Amphitheater, 2.9 acres, 6859 people served.

7) Hosea Sauls Park, 1.1 acres, 4199 people served.

8) Phillipe Derose International Flowering Tree Garden, 2.8 acres, 8512 served.

9) Unnamed Park North, 0.6 acres, 4165 people served.

10) Martin Luther King Park, 1.3 acres, 5572 people served.

11) Washington Park, 2.1 acres, 4686 people served.

12) Aqua Bowl Park, 40.3 acres, 5404 people served.

13) Allen Park/Deleonardis Youth Center, 4.2 acres, 5181 people served.

14) Barry Silverman Park, 1.5 acres, 3748 people served.

15) Patricia A. Mishcon Athletic Field, 3.8 acres, 6365 people served.

16) Victory Park Community Center, 11.2 acres, 9942 people served.

17) Arthur I. Snyder Tennis Complex, 9.7 acres, 6114 people served.

18) East Greynolds Park, 40.7 acres, 4415 people served.

19) Greynolds Park, 165.1 acres, 15,241 people served.

20) Fulford Park, 0.7 acres, 6961 people served.

21) Schenkenberger Park, 0.3 acres, 6151 people served.

22) Arch Creek Park, 10.3 acres, 4554 people served.

23) Oleta River State Park, 1032.8 acres, 9177 people served.

24) Carter Tyree Park, 0.2 acres, 4465 people served.

25) Donald E. Bonham Senior Park, 0.4 acres, 4880 people served.

26) Edna Moffat Boulevard, 1.9 acres, 10,761 people served.

27) Unknown Park, 1.4 acres, 9319 people served.

28) Eastern Shore Tot Lot, 0.1 acres, 3643 people served.

29) Harry Cohen Complex Challenger Park, 2.7 acres, 5543 people served

30) Jack Chaiken Park, 1.2 acres, 6480 people served.

31) Lucenda Neal Park, 0.3 acres, 4213 people served.

 

Ojus: (19,600) 42 percent of residents live within a 10-minute walk of a park; eight percent of city land is used for parks and recreation. TPL assesses a high need for park space along the entire western half of Ojus.

Total parks: 3

1) Greynolds Park, 165.1 acres, 15,241 people served.

2) Highland Oaks Park, 40.9 acres, 4142 people served.

3) Ojus Park, 1.7 acres, 2693 people served.

 

Sunny Isles Beach: (24,026) 98 percent of residents live within a ten-minute walk of a park; 13 percent of city land is used for parks and recreation. The highest need for park land lies in two small areas: near 170th Street and just north of 191st Street.

Total parks: 11

1) Heritage Park, 3.8 acres, 4114 people served.

2) Sunny Isles Beach, 78.1 acres, 21,477 people served.

3) Pelican Community Park, 2.0 acres, 4005 people served.

4) Senator Gwen Margolis Park, 2.9 acres, 7217 people served.

5) Town Center Park, 3.2 acres, 11,122 people served.

6) Gateway Park, 3.7 acres, 8888 people served.

7) Intracoastal Park, 2.4 acres, 7764 people served.

8) Golden Shores Community Park, 0.6 acres, 4126 people served.

9) Oceania Park, 0.1 acres, 7879 people served.

10) Samson Oceanfront Park, 1.9 acres, 10,281 people served.

11) Pier Park, 0.5 acres, 8606 people served


TCoverStory_10he Trust for Public Land does not assess the quality of city parks, but I find it worth noting the value of trees. Trees on public land are just as valuable to residents as parks. They must be protected and their numbers increased. In Miami, increased dramatically, and for a variety of reasons, climate change being one.

In March 2018, Biscayne Times explored this issue (see “In Trees We Trust”). Tree canopy in the City of Miami has suffered from excessive urban development. In 2017-2018 alone, the city issued permits for the removal of 1463 trees.

The loss of trees could be accelerated by a new state law that inhibits a city’s ability to regulate tree trimming and removal. Instead of offering greater protection for trees, our government is actively endangering them.

The loss of trees could be accelerated by a new state law that inhibits a city’s ability to regulate tree trimming and removal. Instead of offering greater protection for trees, our government is actively endangering them.

Teddy Roosevelt created the U.S. Forest Service to protect our natural spaces and wildlife. He preserved 230 million acres of wilderness by authorizing the establishment of 150 national forests, 51 federal bird reserves, four national game reserves, five national parks, and 18 national monuments, including the Grand Canyon, by signing the 1906 American Antiquities Act. “We have fallen heirs to the most glorious [natural] heritage a people ever received,” he wrote, “and each one must do his part if we wish to show that the nation is worthy of its good fortune.”


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