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Report: Minneapolis has nation's best parks system

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So much for the "Mini-apple" moniker. Minneapolis beat New York City in a new ranking of the best park systems in the nation, according to a report released Monday.

The Trust for Public Land's second annual ParkScore index noted that in Minneapolis, 94 percent of residents live within a 10-minute walk of a park.

"What's interesting is on our Top 10 list, a number are older cities where they thought ahead and set aside land to build parks," says Adrian Benepe, senior vice president and director of city park development for the San Francisco-based organization, USA Today reported.

Minneapolis' 197 parks covering 6,744 acres are visited by 20 million people annually, USA Today notes. The city has a parks budget of nearly $100 million and 472 full-time employees. There's more fast facts on the Minneapolis page from the ParkScore report.

And what about St. Paul? MPR talked to Peter Harnik, director of the Center for City Park Excellence at the Trust for Public Land, who said St. Paul's population was too small to be included in the analysis, which looked at only the nation's 50 largest cities.

But Harnik said analysts added St. Paul parks data to the calculations made for Minneapolis and determined that the Twin Cities would still be ranked No. 1 in the index. Harnik said the Twin Cities' ranking was remarkable, given the region's long winters. But a Minnesota-based Trust for Public Land official noted that metro residents use the winter weather as just another reason to enjoy the parks.

Parks are more than just a good place to run or bike, the group's Minnesota director Susan Schmidt told MPR. Parks can help drive economic development, she said. The metro area should continue to create new parks, she said. One new proposal would create a two-block green space near the planned Minnesota Vikings stadium in downtown Minneapolis.

MPR notes that the parks group analyzed the nation's 50 largest cities using five criteria:

- Percentage of residents living within a half mile of a park
- Average park size
- Percentage of the city's land area dedicated to parks
- Number of playgrounds per capita
- Amount of park spending per capita

The top 10 park cities, according to the study:

1. Minneapolis

2. New York

3. Boston (tie)

3. Sacramento (tie)

3. San Francisco (tie)

6. Washington, D.C.

7. Portland

8. Virginia Beach

9. San Diego

10. Seattle

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