Stacker: Green space is beneficial anywhere, but especially in concrete jungles like those found in many US cities. The World Health Organization reports that green areas are essential both for the ecosystem and for the mental health of citizens; even as the color is fading fast in urban areas that are cutting down trees and rapidly building open spaces. There are, however, some cities across America that are fighting hard to keep green space within their borders.
Using data from the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, analyzed by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, Stacker looked at the 70 US cities with the most green spaces per capita and then ranked the top 50 green areas dedicated to parks and urban regions.
Read on to see which cities in your state made the list, or see the national story here.
– Green space per capita: 2,978 square feet – Population: 2 million
Wildflower centers, hiking and biking trails, and Lake Austin beach entrances make up 20,000 acres of green space. Texas city touts the health benefits public open spaces offer, particularly in child development, higher real estate values, and reduced crime rates. Events like Zilker Botanical Garden’s Monarch Appreciation Day, which promotes more pollination for an even greener ecosystem, draw thousands of visitors to Austin each year.
#44. Sant ‘Antonio
– Per capita green space: 3,172 square feet – Population: 2.3 million
Without careful planning and conservation through land conservation and community engagement, the Green Space Alliance of South Texas warns that urban growth will disrupt the quality of life for San Antonio residents. The $8.1 million Pearsall Park was built in 2016 with American Ninja fitness zones and zip lines to keep citizens moving. Along with the major parks, smaller areas like The Greenline offer acres of land and family-friendly activities, including giant chess, public art, and walking trails.
– Per capita green space: 9,637 square feet – Population: 7.1 million
Green Dallas reports that 46% of the city’s total land is built-up, and approximately 27% is designated green space. Other green initiatives Dallas is undertaking include increasing the urban tree canopy, preserving the Great Trinity Forest, and restoring wildlife. For now, Texans are enjoying urban green space at popular parks, including Dragon, White Rock Lake, and River Legacy. Other popular green spots include Arbor Hills Nature Preserve and the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden.
– Per capita green space: 41,514 square feet – Population: 6.6 million
Houston recently underwent a green renaissance with the $200 million Bayou Greenways 2020 project, which hopes to have 60 percent of residents within 1.5 miles of a park when it’s completed. Developers announced in 2019 that the abandoned 550,000-square-foot Barbara Jordan Post Office was being repurposed and will feature a 6-acre rooftop park, one of the largest in the world.
Some cities have gotten creative in building green spaces within their borders. Houston, Nashville and Des Moines, Iowa are among the many cities putting large green spaces on public rooftops. Atlanta also has plans to cover some of its freeways with parks.
Former New York City Department of Parks and Recreation Commissioner Adrian Benepe promotes the 10-Minute Walk campaign, an initiative to have parks within a 10-minute walk of every city in the United States by 2050. Now the senior vice president of the Trust for Public Land, Benepe highlights how green space helps the ecosystem. “When I see a tree, I see God’s handiwork because a tree is an amazing machine,” Benepe said. “He does extraordinary things for very little.”
Additionally, according to the National Recreation and Park Association, the health benefits of parks and green spaces in cities are numerous. Large parks promote an active life, which can reduce the risk of diabetes and heart disease, while research shows that even small parks can reduce stress and improve creativity and mental health.
To learn more about which cities top the list, read on below.
Cities with the most green space per capita
#1. Minneapolis, MN: 105,843 square feet per capita#2. Kansas City, MO: 93,349 square feet per capita#3. Cincinnati, OH: 67,723 square feet per capita#4. Washington, DC: 63,138 square feet per capita#5. Nashville, TN: 57,699 square feet per capita