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KC parks system ranks 16th in study of big cities

Nonprofit report looked at recreational area sizes, services and investment, and proximity to residents.

By LYNN HORSLEY
The Kansas City Star

Kansas City ranks slightly better than the middle of the pack in a new scorecard for the nation’s big-city park systems.

Of the 40 biggest cities, Kansas City’s park system tied for 16th with Milwaukee and Phoenix in a study released today by the Trust for Public Land, a national nonprofit land conservation organization. The Trust’s Center for City Park Excellence looked at park size, park services and investment, and proximity of parks to residents in each of the cities.

The full study is at ParkScore.TPL.org. The study comes just as the City Council is considering asking voters in August for a ½-cent sales tax dedicated to parks, with a focus on improving maintenance and programming. The council is expected to approve the park tax ballot language Thursday.

In this latest national ranking, Kansas City scored better than most cities in terms of service and investment, but lagged somewhat in the percentage of residents who live within a half-mile of a park, park size and the amount of the city’s land mass devoted to parks. Trust officials said those criteria were more of a challenge for sprawling cities such as Kansas City.

“You’ve got the bones of a great system, from a historical perspective and from current management,” Peter Harnik, director of the Center for City Park Excellence, said in an interview.

Harnik cited a particular need for parks in the Northland and on Kansas City’s East Side. Deputy Parks Director Steve Lampone said the study results did not reflect a 93-acre parcel that the city purchased last year in the Little Blue Valley area, at 82nd Street and Noland Road. The park department’s master plan also calls for acquiring more parks to accommodate Northland growth.

In the study, San Francisco, Sacramento, Boston and New York ranked highest, and Louisville, Charlotte, and Fresno had the lowest rankings.

To reach Lynn Horsley, call 816-234-4317 or send email to lhorsley@kcstar.com.

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