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Wisconsin Does Well in Park Rankings

Beautiful landscape in park with tree and green grass field at morning.
yotrakbutda - stock.adobe.com
Beautiful landscape in park with tree and green grass field at morning.

Two of Wisconsin's largest cities land in the top twenty in a new ranking for parks.

The nonprofit Trust for Public Land has issued its annual ParkScore rankings. They're based on five metrics - including access, acreage, investment and amenities.

Madison was 13th on the list, with Milwaukee coming in at number 20.

The organization also released a report on the power of parks to promote public health.

Beyond serving as spaces for physical activity, connecting with nature, and social interactions - the Trust for Public Land's Land and People Lab Senior Vice President and Director - Dr. Howard Frumkin, said urban parks offer specific benefits.

"Lowering the temperature in the neighborhood, which helps people withstand heat waves," said Frumkin. "Lowering noise levels - noise being a very common urban stressor."

Meanwhile, the top 5 cities include two from Minnesota - Minneapolis and Saint Paul.

Others high up on the list are Washington D.C. - which is number one - along with Irvine, California, and Arlington, Virginia.

Researchers found in many places park planning and programs cater to underserved groups or those needing improved accessibility.

Linda Hwang - senior director for strategy and innovation at the Trust for Public Land's Land and People Lab - said innovation and creativity can vary among different park agencies.

"We're seeing people with different types of mobility issues," said Hwang. "Can we really be thinking about all-inclusive design, for example, and even just trying to really cater to some of the emerging mental health challenges? So that custom programming, custom design is something that we didn't expect to find. And so it's just been a really nice surprise for us to see that."

The report found that among some large cities, including New York and Chicago, investments in parks have declined - but Hwang said there are positive signs in some mid-sized cities.

"I think one of the significant challenges is around investments," said Hwang. "So that is one of the categories that we track in the park score index. And when we look across the trends across the 100 largest cities, we are happy that in general, we see some rebounding from the COVID era cuts that we saw across city agencies."

For park investments, Madison and Milwaukee scored closer to average but did better in terms of access.

Mike Moen is a radio news reporter with nearly two decades of experience in the field. He has covered much of the upper Midwest, including Minnesota, Illinois, Wisconsin and the Dakotas. Many of his stories have aired nationally, including several public radio programs.
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