Dallas, we have learned, does a wonderful job of building incredible parks over freeways. On that front, you might credibly say we're world-class. As for providing residents with usable public green space in their neighborhoods, that's a different story.
Dallas' rank on the Trust For Public Land's annual Park Score Index fell again this year, dropping to 36th, down from 21st in 2012 and 26th last year. It's not quite an apples-to-apples comparison, since the number of cities ranked by TPL has expanded from 40 to 60 during that time, but Dallas' actual score -- calculated based on a city's park acreage, park funding, and park access -- has dropped as well.
In an interview with The Dallas Morning News, Parks Director Willis Winters identifies the problem -- that the amount of parkland hasn't kept pace with population growth -- and has a solution: "We need to be buying land."
But where? Leaving aside the question of where the money's going to come from, what areas are in greatest need of green space?
Downtown, where for various reasons the city has focused its park-building energies in recent years, actually does pretty well under TPL's criteria, which stipulates that people have a park within a 10 minute walk of their home. So does South Dallas, thanks in large part to the existence of Fair Park, and East Dallas, with White Rock Lake.
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The pockets of orange representing "high" park need on TPL's map (the interactive version of which is worth poking around on) are somewhat more predominate south of Interstate 30, particularly in areas like Kleberg and Rylie that were annexed relatively recently.
The angry splotches of red, denoting "very high" park need, are more evenly distributed between north and south. These, by and large, are centered where there are clusters of sprawling apartment complexes. Vickery Meadow is red. So is the area around Skillman Street and Audelia Road. It makes sense, then, that the pockets of high density on TPL's population density map correspond with some of the red areas for parks.
Giving those people neighborhood parks will take more than just buying parcels of land. Maybe development policies that discourage such dense clusters of crappy apartment complexes would be a start.
Send your story tips to the author, Eric Nicholson.