Irvine Ranked 6th Most Park-Friendly City in Nation

Best view of Irvine’s Great Park. Photo by author

Irvine is the sixth most park-friendly city in the nation, according to a new Top 100 ranking released today by the San Francisco-based nonprofit Trust for Public Land. Not only is that ranking the highest in Orange County, but it’s the highest in all of Southern California. Long Beach, the next highest So Cal city, ranked 18th on Trust’s list.

“Irvine’s ParkScore was lifted this year by new ‘joint use’ agreements that increase access to school facilities for public use after hours and on weekends,” according to a May 22 Trust for Public Land statement. “These agreements boosted marks on several ParkScore rating factors, especially park amenities. According to ParkScore, Irvine now offers 17.7 basketball hoops per 10,000 residents, second among ParkScore cities and trailing only Norfolk. Irvine’s ParkScore was also boosted by its healthy parks budget of $252 per resident, which far exceeds the national ParkScore average of $90. However, Irvine’s ParkScore was negatively affected by a relatively low score for dog parks, 0.4 per 100,000 residents, compared to the National ParkScore average of 1.1.”

As we all know, Irvine has a ton of parks (127 to be exact), so this new ranking isn’t all that surprising. According to The Trust for Public Land, 27 percent of Irvine’s land is dedicated to park use, which far exceeds the national average of 15 percent. Irvine is also a relatively wealthy city (the median income is $91,999/year), and you tend to find a lot more attention to parks in places like that. And while we’ve noted in the past that Irvine’s Great Park may not be so great–Griffith Park in Los Angeles (which ranked a measly 55th on the list) is far more lush–in its defense the massive Irvine park isn’t named after a dangerous misogynist who spent two years in San Quentin for nearly murdering his wife.

Only two other OC cities made the top 100 list: Anaheim (ranked 57th) and Santa Ana (ranked 84th). Anaheim (the home of Disneyland, the veritable nemesis of public parks) scored relatively well on acreage dedicated to park use, but lower on amenities. As for Santa Ana, which has just four percent of its land dedicated to parks, the city did well on public access, but pathetic on dog parks (zero!).

For your benefit, we looked up each and every Orange County city in the Trust’s database, and produced this handy table to show the best indicator of park-friendliness for each Orange County city–how close its parks are to where people actually live:

Percentage of population living within a 10-minute walk to a park

Cypress: 88

Laguna Hills: 87

Mission Viejo: 87

La Habra: 85

Huntington Beach: 84

Laguna Beach: 81

Aliso Viejo: 80

Dana Point: 80

Irvine: 80

Los Alamitos: 77

Newport Beach: 76

Lake Forest: 75

Santa Ana: 75

Rancho Santa Margarita: 75

Fullerton: 74

Stanton: 72

Tustin: 69

Westminster: 67

Anaheim: 66

Costa Mesa: 66

Fountain Valley: 63

San Juan Capistrano: 62

Brea: 61

Laguna Niguel: 59

Seal Beach: 57

Buena Park: 52

San Clemente: 52

Laguna Woods: 47

Orange: 44

Garden Grove: 43

Villa Park: 0

And no, that’s not a “no data available” zero for Villa Park–that’s a “no residents live within a 10-minute walk to a park” zero. The city actually has “Park” in its name, and it’s the least park-friendly city in all of Orange County, basically because it has no parks.

“As few as 8,300 new parks in places where they are needed most would close the gap in park access in our 100 largest cities,” Breece Robertson, Chief Research and Innovation Officer at The Trust for Public Land, said in the May 22 statement. “At current rates of investment in park creation, it will take more than 50 years to build enough new parks to fill this gap. But because we now know exactly where to site the parks, we know the first 1,500 could solve the problem for nearly 5 million people. That shows us the way forward, and we owe it to our children to rise to the challenge.”

Washington D.C., where a remarkable 98 percent of its residents live within a 10-minute walk to a park, ranked highest on the list. Click here to see the Trust’s entire ranking and methodology.

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