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Study highlights Lexington's parks shortcomings

Compared to other mid-sized cities, Lexington is among the worst for dedicating land for parks.

While the city's parks total up 6,077 acres, they make up only 3.3 percent of the entire city making Lexington fifth from the bottom of similar-sized cities according to The Trust for Public Land. With more than twice as much land devoted to parks, Louisville ranked twelfth best. In the same category as Kentucky's two largest cities, Anchorage rated the best and Honolulu the worst.

In its new data on city park systems from across the country, The Trust for Public Land showed that the 100 largest cities added more than 120 parks in the past year.

"Urban parks are more important than ever as cities grow larger and denser," said Will Rogers, The Trust for Public Land's President. "Though budgets are tight everywhere, urban parks have consistently proven to be a wise investment, helping to improve health, increase environmental quality, and sustain property values.

Despite aggregate increases in acreage and facilities across the U.S., many city park departments are struggling with funding shortages. Operational spending shrank by 0.6 percent overall, with close to half of cities experiencing cuts. Full-time employee counts fell by 3.9 percent, a loss of 935 jobs nationwide. The impact on seasonal jobs was particularly severe, with a decrease of 11.04 percent, or more than 8,000 jobs. Overall though, the rate of employment cuts has slowed since the previous year, which witnessed a 7 percent drop in employment.

The Trust for Public Land, a national conservation organization which also creates parks in cities, began data reporting on city park systems a decade ago.

The report, 2011 City Park Facts includes data on urban park acreage, spending, staffing, and facilities, providing insight into the state of America's urban parks. The Trust for Public Land releases the data annually through its Center for City Park Excellence.

The 22,493 city parks profiled in the report serve 62 million urban residents with a wide array of facilities, including 419 public golf courses, 569 dog parks, 9,633 ball diamonds, 11,678 playgrounds, and 14,415 basketball hoops.

Compared to all 100 largest cities in the country, Lexington and its 64 playgrounds scored in the top half for number of playgrounds per 10,000 residents. Lexington scored in the bottom half of top 100 cities for total spending on parks and recreation per residents. Lexington's $18.4-million total park expenditures equaled $62 per resident.

For the 2011 report, 16 new cities were added to the data set, which now spans from New York City to Irving, Texas, with a population of 205,000. In some cases, one city dominated a statistical category - the parkland of Anchorage equals a third of the total park acreage in the 100 cities, and New York's budget represents almost a fifth of the total spending.

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