Study ranks Fort Wayne parks worst among large cities

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) Fort Wayne’s park system, often touted by the city as world-class, has been ranked at the bottom of those of America’s large cities by a public land index.

ParkScore, which measures how top U.S. cities meet the need for parks, ranked Fort Wayne’s parks No. 98 out of 100 in a recent study. The score found Fort Wayne’s 2,400 acres of parks lacked high numbers of basketball hoops and dog parks, and too many residents were not served by nearby parks.

A child slides down a slide at Foster Park in Fort Wayne, Ind.

Minneapolis ranked No. 1 in ParkScore’s rankings, followed by St. Paul, San Francisco, Washington, D.C. and Portland. Fort Wayne tied with Indianapolis for last place in the rankings.

“Everyone in America deserves to live within a 10-minute walk of a park,” said Charlie McCabe, Director of The Trust for Public Land’s Center for City Parks Excellence. “Parks are proven to improve physical and mental health, increase property values, and bring neighbors together to nurture the personal bonds that make our communities special.”

ParkScore found that Fort Wayne’s parks serve 103 people per park acre. City parks have 1.8 basketball hoops per 10,000 residents, and 0.8 dog parks per 100,000 residents. The city scored low for recreation and senior centers per 20,000 residents (0.4 percent) and park land as percentage of city area (3 percent).

SEE: Fort Wayne’s ParkScore profile

Fort Wayne Parks and Recreation Director Al Moll said the rankings don’t accurately measure Fort Wayne’s park system.

“Much of our programming is unique among park systems across the country, therefore it’s impossible to measure our accomplishments by merely focusing on park access, size, facilities and investment,” said Moll. “We respond to the interests of the citizens and our benchmarks are specific to their needs. Furthermore, our city has expanded significantly and the new suburban developments have plenty of playgrounds, golf courses, pools and trails which aren’t counted in the Park System Ratings. Adding more parks to those neighborhoods would just be a duplication of efforts that our community hasn’t requested and would be costly.”

ParkScore said in its study that Fort Wayne spends just more than $78 per resident on its parks. Moll said when you adjust for the cost of living, though, the city’s parks are well above the national average, spending an average of $102 per resident.