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Pittsburgh's park system ranks among the top 20 nationally

Katie Blackley
90.5 WESA
Schenley Park

For the third consecutive year, Pittsburgh ranked in the top 20 city park systems nationally, according to an annual report released by the Trust for Public Land.

The ParkScore Index assesses park systems in the 100 most populous U.S. cities based on a variety of factors.

Pittsburgh’s parks scored above average in access, investment and amenities. The report shows that about 93% of Pittsburghers live within a 10 minute walk to a park and that Pittsburgh’s parks have strong infrastructure of community gathering spaces, like recreation and senior centers.

Pittsburgh’s parks scored low in acreage. The average park size is only 2.2 acres — less than half the national ParkScore average of 5.4 acres. But Owen Franklin, Pennsylvania's state director with the Trust for Public Land, said small parks size is not an indicator of poor quality.

“I don't think that the goal of every city needs to be getting 100 points in every dimension of target score,” Franklin said. “And that's really not the point.”

Franklin said the real goal of the Trust’s study is to highlight how a city’s parks perform strongly, suggest potential areas for improvement, and emphasize the role of public spaces as a foundation for community.

“You want to ensure that the spaces that you have are performing as well as they can and that they are distributed equitably; that people regardless of income, race, or ethnicity have the same access to the same quality of spaces,” Franklin said. “I think that's a more important thing to focus on than whether or not the city has the maximum amount of park space available.”

Chris Hornstein, Pittsburgh’s director of public works, said data from reports like ParkScore are crucial to the improvement of the city’s parks. He also said the Department of City Planning is looking into methods to increase Pittsburgh’s park acreage.

“As it turns out, there is a vast amount of acreage in the city of Pittsburgh — hundreds of acres — not currently classified as parks, but from a land use perspective that is the best and most applicable use for it,” Hornstein said.

Areas like hillsides, stream sheds and watersheds are strong candidates for future greenways, according to Hornstein.

Ross Chapman, Chief of Operations and Park Equity at Pittsburgh Park Conservancy, points to the report’s value in conversations about equal access to parks.

“Historically, investment in a green space drives up property value, which then can push people out,” Chapman said. “I think there's some wonderful examples where Trust for Public Land is leading conversations in city planning and affordable housing adjacent to park development.”

Chapman said increasing park acreage and improving park equity go hand-in-hand, as intentional efforts to add more green spaces can provide better access to those who need it.

Lane Moore is an intern at 90.5 WESA. They are a senior at Ohio University studying journalism and sociology, and their reporting is published in Print Newspaper, Southeast Ohio Magazine, and