They are places to relax or exercise, open space areas to get away from life’s stresses or used as gathering places to bring communities together.

The importance of park space became even more apparent in recent weeks, amid coronavirus stay-at-home orders, with people yearning to get outdoors to connect with nature.

The Trust for Public Land has released its annual “ParkScore” rankings, showing how nearly 100 of the country’s most populous cities fared when it comes to public parkland. Ratings were based on factors such as acreage, amenities and how many people have access to the parks.

Southern California had a mix of results, with Irvine again nabbing a spot in the top 10 rankings at No. 7, while nearby Santa Ana ranked low at the 85th spot. Anaheim showed vast improvements, earning a 45th place finish, jumping 23 places from two years earlier.

Long Beach came in at 23rd, while Riverside was at 60th. Los Angeles ranked in 49th place with room to improve, but it was a jump from 66th place two years ago.

Hilltop Park in Signal Hill on Friday, May 15, 2020. Long Beach came in at 23rd for its park rankings. (Photo by Howard Freshman, Contributing Photographer)

“There’s a lot of good news to share nationally and in California. In Southern California cities, we’ve seen an increase in public and private spending, construction of playgrounds and greater access,” said Guillermo Rodriguez, the Trust for Public Land’s California state director.

The bad news is there are 100 million Americans, 27 million of those being children, who don’t live within a 10-minute walk to a park or open space, he said.

That became apparent during the coronavirus stay-at-home orders, as parking lots to parks were shut down locally to curb crowds, meaning most could only go there if they could walk or bike in.

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Many could not.

In California, one in three people don’t live within a 10-minute walk to a park, Rodriguez said. “That challenge is more distinct when it comes to equality. The vast majority are low income.”

There has been a “tremendous outpouring of attention, respect and higher priority for parks and open space,” Rodriguez noted. “But it has also really illustrated the haves and have nots.

“Health officers have made important decisions to protect our health, but it has exacerbated the issue of who has access and who does not,” he said.

During the pandemic, the fact that cities, counties and health officers decided to keep many parks open is a testament to how important they are, even if it means being creative to maintain social distancing rules and space among users.

“I think a lot of great innovation, a lot of great ideas have come out from our park system at our city levels that I hope creates conversations about our open space, how to keep them open and how to provide the public with mental health, but in a way that is safe and with social distancing,” Rodriguez said, noting there’s been creative adaptations such as making trails one way or cities opening up streets …read more

Source:: Los Angeles Daily News


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