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Cincinnati Parks Rank Fifth In National Park Survey

A family rides their bikes along the Ohio River near Smale Park in the wake of the coronavirus  pandemic, Saturday, May 16, 2020, in Cincinnati.
Courtesy of Jason Whitman
A family rides their bikes along the Ohio River near Smale Park in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, Saturday, May 16, 2020, in Cincinnati.

Moving up three spots from last year, Cincinnati's parks rank fifth among the nation's largest 100 cities by the Trust for Public Land.

A lot goes into the rankings. Parks spokesman Rocky Merz credits good planning in the city's early days for positioning the park district well for future generations.

"Our forefathers were very forward thinking and started appreciating the need to have public park places throughout the city many generations ago and we're bearing the fruits of that now," he explains, pointing to the shear number and availability of parks. "Corner parks, small parks, large regional parks - they're really nestled within the entire city."

Merz says a big part of the Trust survey is looking at park accessibility and how close they are to people.

Cincinnati Parks boasts more than 5,000 acres including:

  • Five regional parks
  • 70 neighborhood parks
  • 34 natural areas
  • Five neighborhood nature centers
  • 30 sites managed by the Cincinnati Recreation Commission
  • Five parkways
  • 16 scenic overlooks
  • Two arboretums
  • 65 miles of hiking and bridle trails

The Trust's evaluation looks at size, amenities and access. Cincinnati earned a park score of 80.6, getting 92.5 out of 100 points for amenities like playgrounds, dog parks, restrooms and splashpads; and 100 out of 100 points in spending per capita. It also found that 82% of the population lives within a 10 minute walk of a park.

Merz says parks have remained vital during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"That's clearly been something that everybody's commented on with this most recent ranking: What a valuable part the parks have played for everybody during this time when everything is closed down. Our parks and trails have been open, people have really enjoyed that. It's provided a lot of mental health and relaxation benefits."

The department is evaluating changing pandemic restrictions and slowly reopening some amenities. Tennis courts reopened recently, certain bathroom facilities are now open along with the swings at Smale Park.

Quick Ranking Facts

Here's how Cincinnati Parks compares with other the nation's 100 largest cities, according to the Trust for Public Land.

  • 94th percentile for basketball hoops
  • 69th percentile for dog parks
  • 98th percentile for playgrounds
  • 88th percentile for bathrooms
  • 86th percentile for recreation and senior centers
  • 87th percentile for splashpads

The Top 10

  1. Minneapolis, MN
  2. Washington, DC
  3. Saint Paul, MN
  4. Arlington, VA 
  5. Cincinnati
  6. Portland, OR
  7. Irvine, CA
  8. San Francisco
  9. Boston
  10. Chicago
  11. New York 
  12. Madison, WI

Cleveland ranks 29 followed by Columbus at 49 and Toledo at 77.

Copyright 2021 91.7 WVXU. To see more, visit 91.7 WVXU.

Tana Weingartner earned a bachelor's degree in communication from the University of Cincinnati and a master's degree in mass communication from Miami University. Most recently, she served as news and public affairs producer with WMUB-FM. Ms. Weingartner has earned numerous awards for her reporting, including several Best Reporter awards from the Associated Press and the Ohio Society of Professional Journalists, and a regional Murrow Award. She served on the Ohio Associated Press Broadcasters Board of Directors from 2007 - 2009.