Plano earned the highest ranking among area cities and came in 17th nationally on The Trust for Public Land’s 2020 annual parks study.
The nonprofit evaluates park quality and access in the 100 largest cities across the U.S. The study considers how many acres are set aside, what percentage of land is used, how much money is spent per resident and how many people live within a 10-minute walking distance of a park.
“Parks are essential to the quality of life, economy and health and public safety,” said Robert Kent, Texas state director for The Trust for Public Land.
Plano ranked significantly higher than other area cities, including Dallas (54th), Arlington (59th), Garland (83rd), Irving (89th) and Fort Worth (94th).
The Collin County city also received high marks for is its large median park size of 13.5 acres. That’s more than double the national average of 5.2 acres, according to the study.
Plano was the only area city to earn above-average scores for park access. About 75% of residents are within a 10-minute walk to a park. Nationally, only 72% of residents in other cities live that close.
On the downside, Plano did not fare as well in its scores for park amenities, such as dog parks, recreation and senior centers, the report states.
The park system helps the city offer “a great quality of life” and has played a role in drawing in large businesses that want a good place for their employees to live, Kent said. The city spends about $225 per resident on parks, according to the study.
In the middle of many residential developments, the city has set aside an area for a park. Plano has also built trails on what would otherwise be unused land under power lines, Kent said.
In 2017, an economic impact study by The Trust for Public Land found that parks have a strong, positive economic impact on Plano. That includes revenue generated by sport and tournament-related tourism and spending on sports, recreation, and exercise equipment, health care cost savings.
An estimated 16,500 adults in Plano are able to get enough exercise just by using the city’s parks and recreation system, Kent said.
In all, the benefits of parks created tens of millions of dollars in spending and in estimated health care savings for Plano, according to the trust’s analysis.
The nonprofit also found anecdotally that parks across the area, including those in Plano, are being used more during the COVID-19 stay-at-home era, Kent said. More than ever, parks are providing a key venue for people to get outside and get exercise, he said.
Leaders at the trust said they hope parks are viewed as essential as cities begin looking to make cuts due to anticipated budget shortfalls.
“Parks are a critical part of health and wellness — reducing anxiety, stress, and depression and improving physical health—all the more necessary during this public health emergency,” Sadiya Muqueeth, director of community health at The Trust for Public Land said in a prepared statement. “Sunlight, fresh air, exercise, and access to nature all have a positive effect on our physical health and emotional wellbeing.”