Nearly half of all San Antonio residents now live within a 10-minute walking distance of a public park, with people in low-income neighborhoods having access to a third more park space than the city median, according to the latest annual index by the Trust for Public Land.

The Trust for Public Land publishes a new ParkScore index annually. It measures the park systems in the country’s largest 100 cities by looking at five categories: acreage, investment, amenities, access, and equity. To learn more about San Antonio’s green space and how it compares nationally, click here.

San Antonio was cited as one of the index’s “fastest risers” for 2021 when the latest rankings were released last week, meaning it was among the top three U.S. cities seeing the greatest increase in the percentage of residents living within a 10-minute walk to a park. 

The total percentage of San Antonians residing within a 10-minute walk to a public park is 48%, up 5% from last year. Only two other cities – Henderson, Nevada, and Irvine, California – saw a greater percentage increase over the past year, with 8% and 6% growth respectively. 

However, San Antonio still ranks in the lower half of the top 100 U.S. cities for parks, sitting 60th in the 2021 index after moving up 15 places from 75th place in the 2020 index. 

“This benchmark is an indicator that tells us we’re definitely moving in the right direction in terms of providing equitable access to green spaces in San Antonio,” said Homer Garcia III, director of the Parks and Recreation Department, via email.

This year the Trust for Public Land measured park equity for the first time. For that category, the organization considered four metrics: the percentage of people who identify as minorities who live near a public park, the percentage of low-income households near a public park, the ratio of nearby public park acres between neighborhoods that are home to people who predominantly identify as minority, and the ratio of nearby public park acres between low-income neighborhoods and high-income neighborhoods.

Those findings showed that San Antonio residents in low-income neighborhoods have access to 33% more park space per person than the index’s city median. 

“This isn’t the case for many large cities, who averaged 42% less park acreage per person in low-income neighborhoods,” Garcia said. 

While San Antonio’s 10-minute walk to a park score has improved, the City still has more work to do to ensure community members have equal access to public green spaces, Garcia said.  

One way the Parks and Recreation Department is doing that is through shared-use agreements with local schools, allowing residents to use school playgrounds and playing fields during non-school hours, Garcia said.

The Parks and Recreation Department parners with local school districts to “expand the use of their outdoor amenities such as exercise stations, playgrounds, and walking paths,” the department said in a press release. 

Other efforts to expand park access include looking at areas where there are no local parks and aiming to fill these spots in with more green space, Garcia said. Getting more community involvement and feedback is vital for this process, he added. 

“These conversations are important because they help us plan for future park and trail projects,” Garcia said. “With community input and support, we recently added new dog parks, cricket fields, disc golf, and school parks, expanding access to these outdoor recreation opportunities.”

Andres Andujar, CEO of the Hemisfair Park Area Redevelopment Corporation that oversees Hemisfair, noted that San Antonio’s spot in the Trust for Public Land rankings has gotten a boost from the Howard W. Peak Greenway Trail System. The project, spearheaded by former San Antonio Mayor Howard W. Peak, aims to build a ring of trails along creeks around the entire City of San Antonio. Currently, there are approximately 80 miles of trails available, with another 15 undergoing construction.

“The Howard Peak linear park system is going to get us into the 90% range for the number of citizens that are within a 10-minute walk to a public park,” Andujar said.

He said he wants the City of San Antonio to continue to invest more money in parks and recreation, especially with a 2022 municipal bond on the horizon. 

Of the $850 million bond approved in 2017, $83.5 million has gone to parks through the City’s 2020 fiscal year, according to the City’s bond website.

Correction: This article has been updated to correct the number of miles covered by greenway trails.

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Lindsey Carnett

Lindsey Carnett covers the environment, science and utilities for the San Antonio Report.