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25 Best Cities for Outdoor Space

Jul 6, 2018

Balancing nature with modern life is a growing trend for cities looking to go green. We looked at 100 cities and ranked their public green and outdoor space on seven different factors: public park acres per 1,000 residents, public park access, yearly spend on parks per resident, median home price, average monthly rent, air quality, and average monthly temperature. Check out the graphic below to see how the top 25 cities measure up when it comes to being green.

Holding the top spot is a comeback story for the ages: New Orleans. After the devastation of Hurricane Katrina and Rita in 2005, the process to rebuild itself included finding more sustainable building techniques while maintaining the character and appeal of the city. New Orleans boasts the high score of 73 thanks to a high volume of parks per 1,000 residents (71 acres), high spending on parks per 1,000 residents ($156), combined with good air quality (7.5 out of 10) and a comfortable average year-round temperature of 70 degrees. Efforts like these make the Big Easy the greenest city in the country.

New Orleans and other southern cities have a good year round average temperature, but there’s no mistaking that summer months can be sweltering. Cities like Scottsdale (No. 24), Glendale (21), Las Vegas (18), Tucson (16), El Paso (6), Albuquerque (3), and North Las Vegas (2) each must contend with arid, oftentimes unforgivingly dry climates. Similarly, cities located in the Great Plains and Midwest —Omaha (No. 20), Kansas City (19), Lincoln (13), Tulsa (12), and Oklahoma City (9) deal with sweeping winds and vast stretches of open land. Having green space provides much-needed shade and plants to help keep oxygen and moisture circulating through the air. Green spaces in these cities is crucial to maintaining an enjoyable lifestyle that works with the environment.

Some spaces might seem surprising, considering they’re known more for harsh winters than greenery: Madison, WI (No. 25), Philadelphia, PA (22), and Buffalo, NY (10). Each city boasts high walkable park access, which push their scores into the top 25 list. The average yearly temperature hovers around 50 degrees for each city, so residents make sure to take advantage of the public parks when weather is enjoyable.

Honolulu is not surprisingly high on the list. Coming in at No. 5, it has top marks in more than half of the scoring categories. Where it lacks—spending on parks per resident is lowest at $41—is perhaps understandable, considering that the natural landscape of Hawaii is practically all green space. Residents don’t have to go far to get their fill of lush, verdant greenery.

The top 25 is a nice mix of big urban metropolises and smaller cities, from the Deep South to the northern Midwest to the East coast, which means that it doesn’t matter where you’re located, every region knows it’s easy being green.

Sources:
The Trust for Public Land
Zillow
U.S. Climate Data
EPA

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