I love city rankings. Most journalists, bloggers, Twitters and Facebookers do. A cursory read of the topic and list makes us believe we are instant experts. We love to criticize the methodology, provide anecdotal evidence and snark about how our city, even if it did perform poorly, is still superior to the cities that did well because of X, Y or Z unrelated event.
That said, The Atlantic today brought to my attention a ranking of the country’s best city park systems . The rating system, ParkScore , looked at median park size, acreage as a percent of the city area, percent of residents living within a 10-minute walk of a park, park system spending per resident and the number of playgrounds per 10,000 residents.
With a measly 29.0 points on their 100-point scale, Louisville ranked 38th, right behind the Mesa, Ariz.
I was shocked. When I moved to Louisville and identified myself as a newbie, locals almost always mentioned our local parks – usually Cherokee and Waterfront. Locals gushed to me about Shakespeare performances and art festivals held in parks. When I rented a condo in an Old Louisville building without a fenced-in yard, I looked up dog parks for my mutt and was pleasantly surprised at how short the drive time was. Six months later (aka: this weekend, during Old Louisville SpringFest) I realized I’d missed one in my original search and there is a dog park less than 200 yards from my house. I’ve never been an outdoorsy person but the gorgeous weather and the number of people utilizing the parks I’ve driven by are motivating me to be more active.
All this is a stark contrast from my hometown of Las Vegas, which ranked far better on ParkScale’s list – 23rd, with a score of 49.0 out of 100.
When touting the benefits of living in Las Vegas, I have never heard someone mention parks within the city. If someone had, I would probably remind that person that spending time outdoors in 110-degree heat is pure misery. (Oh, and before anyone tries: Don’t give me that “but it’s a dry heat” nonsense. Dry heat sucks as much as humid heat, and I’ve suffered through both.
Certainly, my viewpoint is skewed. ParkScale categorizes my current Louisville neighborhood as “served” when it comes to park needs, and my last Las Vegas neighborhood is defined as in “need.” Furthermore, I know I’ve sought out the local parks here because they are full of colors, grass, animals and things a desert girl isn’t used to (and therefore drawn to). Maybe all my friends who’ve been impressed by the parks here during their visits here are similarly afflicted.
I don’t know the pulse of Louisville the city yet, but I do know it’s impressed me. That counts for something.