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Arlington’s park system is now ranked No. 3 in the U.S.

Jennie Dean Park is expected to open to the public in May following renovations (staff photo by Matt Blitz)

Arlington County’s park system has leveled up.

The county just ranked No. 3 in the U.S. on the Trust for Public Land’s ParkScore index, after several years of being stuck at No. 4. D.C., meanwhile, ranked No. 1 in the nation this year.

In announcing the higher ranking, the county touted that 99% of Arlington residents live within a 10-minute walk to the park.

“Our parks and recreation opportunities are a key contributor to quality of life in Arlington County,” Arlington County Board Chair Katie Cristol said in a statement. “From livability, bikeability, fitness, health and more, our community benefits from our parks.”

In a press release, the county also noted that the ParkScore index just started factoring equity — a key county priority — into its rankings. The county received top marks for accessibility to park space among people of color, but received some demerits for people of color and lower income residents having less total nearby park space compared to white residents.

More from the county press release, below.

Arlington County’s Park system is ranked third in the nation by the Trust for Public Land’s ParkScore® index.

With 99% of Arlington residents living within a 10-minute walk to a park, the importance of the County’s parks was acutely felt during the COVID-19 pandemic. Arlington’s more than 150 parks served as places to connect and exercise, and they were integral in strengthening our community’s mental and physical well-being. The past several years, Arlington has ranked fourth in the country.

“Our parks and recreation opportunities are a key contributor to quality of life in Arlington County. From livabilitybikeabilityfitnesshealth and more, our community benefits from our parks,” said Arlington County Board Chair Katie Cristol. “And during the challenging recent pandemic years, our Department of Parks and Recreation proved that recreation is a core service by delivering food to those in need, providing and coordinating facilities to administer COVID-19 tests and vaccines, and offering all of us respite and connection to community.”

Arlington scored 79.1 points out of 100 in the ParkScore® index. The calculation is based on an average of five categories reflective of an excellent city park system: access, investment, amenities, acreage and equity. Arlington scores near the top in the community’s investment (both dollars and volunteerism) and access. The County scored about average on the percentage of the city’s overall area that is dedicated to parkland and below average on park size.

“Our community’s commitment to its parks makes a difference,” said Parks and Recreation Director Jane Rudolph. “They have supported us by voting for park bonds. They steward our parks as volunteers. They provide great input as we develop new programs and facilities.”

Arlington’s park amenities score indicates the relative abundance of six park activities popular among a diverse selection of user groups (kids, teenagers, adults and seniors). Overall for this category, Arlington scores among the highest in the nation for its availability of basketball hoops, dog parks, playgrounds, recreation and senior centers, permanent restrooms and spraygrounds.

In 2021, the Trust for Public Land added equity to the ParkScore®. This category coincides with Arlington’s priority and vision: An equitable Arlington is one where all are valued, educated, healthy and safe regardless of race. The equity score measures the distribution of parks between neighborhoods by race and income. This category is an average of two types of metrics.

On the first set of measures, Arlington scores among the highest: 99 out of 100 points for people of color living within a 10-minute walk of a park and 99 points for low-income households. The second set of measures compare the distribution of park space. In Arlington, residents living in neighborhoods of color have access to 36% less nearby park space than those living in white neighborhoods. And residents living in lower-income neighborhoods have access to 32% less nearby park space than those in higher-income neighborhoods.

The County continues to work on initiatives to address disparities in outcomes and foster equity in all areas. Arlington remains committed to make improvements so people of color and residents living in lower-income neighborhoods have better access to park opportunities. An important step in this direction is the openings of the John Robinson, Jr. Town Square and the renovation of Jennie Dean Park in the coming weeks.

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