Five Ways to Measure the Need for City Parks

While standardized metrics for determining the number of and place for city parks cannot replace more fine grain analysis, they can be useful tools. Park planner Clement Lau writes about five park-need metrics, including a couple of the newest.

2 minute read

November 13, 2015, 6:00 AM PST

By wadams92101

Empty Swings

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Standardized park planning metrics that prescribe, for example, x acres of park per 1,000 residents, have a bad rap. However, planners cannot rely solely on subjective input. Standardized metrics are an invaluable tool for planners when not blindly implemented. Park planner Clement Lau reviews five valuable metrics, including a couple of the newest, which work best when integrated with other metrics and more fine grain analysis. Excerpts of his review are as follows:

Park Acres per 1,000 Residents

This is a commonly used indicator of the amount of parkland available in a given area.  

. . . 

Park Accessibility

This metric is evaluated by using a Geographic Information System (GIS) and Census data to determine the percentage of households that are within walking distance from a park.  

. . .

Park Pressure

Park pressure is a lesser known, but helpful metric that refers to the potential demand on a park, assuming that the residents in a “parkshed” use the park closest to them. 

. . .

Quantity and Variety of Park Amenities

It should be obvious that not all parks are created equal and that the quantity and variety of amenities vary widely. 

. . . 

Condition of Park Amenities

The condition or quality of park amenities is a key measure of park adequacy.  . . . The condition of this infrastructure and park amenities may be rated as “Good,” “Fair,” or “Poor” or in any other way that allows a city to determine its deferred maintenance and park improvement needs in terms of costs.

Lau goes on to explain in more detail how each of these metrics should be used and integrated with other factors.

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