Operation: Park Transformation

Take a moment to notice the parks nearby. Can you and your family get to one within a 10-minute walk? If not, The Trust for Public Land has something to say about it.

According to their mission statement, the TPL is a nonprofit working in all 50 states to conserve land for parks, gardens, and other natural places, ensuring livable communities for everyone.

Marc Matsil, New York State Director for TPL, spoke with Natural Solutions about the organization’s work with parks across the US. TPL, he said, is “protecting lands for people, for recreation, for water quality protection, to protect drinking water supplies, and for the purposes of resilient landscapes that can absorb flood flows while providing public access.”

Just last year the TPL initiated a program called ParkScore, which takes large and medium-sized cities throughout the country and ranks their park systems. (They rate each park by three important characteristics: access, acreage, and service and investment.) Minneapolis came in first this year, followed by New York, San Francisco, Sacramento, and Boston.

“What we do is we overlay GIS [geographic information system] data to a map, map the parks, and see where the populations are related to where there is park land, with the goal that every single citizen in the country should be within a 10-minute walk of a park. And the focus was on cities for this purpose,” said Matsil.

TPL is marking their 40th year in operation—to this day they are the only national conservation group dedicated to protecting land near and in cities. “It’s a great call to action for parks that may be deficient in certain ways and they basically want to make improvements. [ParkScore] helps provide some of the metrics that would be required to upgrade or to be ranked better. For those that score well, it creates tremendous community pride,” said Matsil.

Their most recent endeavor is the 606 Park in Chicago. The park—named after the area’s zip code—will transform a three-mile stretch of unused rail line to the elevated Bloomingdale Trail, linking to five ground-level neighborhood parks. Looking for parks in your area that TPL has worked on or that have been ranked well through ParkScore? Check out their website at parkscore.tpl.org.