Nashville has slipped because of a few key measurements as tabulated by the Trust for Public Land and its “ParkScore” research.
Nashville is now spending substantially less per person on its parks — $70 annually, compared to a per capita national average of $96.
It also struggles on the “access” metric, which is based on what percentage of residents live within a 10-minute walk to a park. The land trust finds 45% of Nashvillians have such access, far below the national average of 75%.
Of note, Davidson County is geographically large, and some of its most popular parks aren’t close to dense residential areas. They are often driving destinations.
That’s what Metro Parks emphasized in a response to WPLN News, saying the sheer size of the county makes it difficult to reach parks walkability in low-density areas. The agency calls the ParkScore “useful” but “limited” when applied to Nashville.
Instead, Metro Parks says it has seized chances to expand its largest green spaces, which is reflected in the city consistently scoring at the top of the nation for the average size of its parks (16 acres).
“Nashville has had unique opportunities to acquire large-acreage regional parks and natural areas,” says the parks department. “These large parks are beloved and a unique and defining strength of Nashville’s park system.”
For the first time, the land trust computed equity standards this year. Those found that Nashville neighborhoods where most residents identify as people of color have less access to park space than predominantly white areas.
Metro Parks acknowledged that there’s work to be done to create more small, urban parks in dense and built-out areas. The department has added at least three such spaces in recent years.
The annual data release also provides each city with a heat map to compare levels of parks access. The Trust has noted that Nashville leaders could greatly expand parks access if more public school grounds were made accessible to residents.
Mayor John Cooper, meanwhile, responded to the ParkScore by reaffirming his goal of increasing the percentage of residents within walking distance of a park to at least 50%. His latest capital spending plan increases funding for greenways and restoration work at Fort Negley.