The Minneapolis park system is ranked No. 1 in the U.S. according to the 2013 ParkScore Index released Wednesday by the Trust for Public Land.
Minneapolis earned the first-ever "5 park bench" rating from the nonprofit organization.
HOW PARKSCORE IS CALCULATED
ParkScore ratings are based equally on three factors:
1. Park access: The percentage of residents living within a 10-minute walk of a park
2. Park size: Based on a city's median park size and the percentage of total city area dedicated to parks.
3. Services and investment: The number of playgrounds per 10,000 city residents and per capita park spending.
In Minneapolis, 94 percent of residents live within a 10-minute walk of a park.
The Minneapolis Park Board accepted the top honors under rainy skies Wednesday morning from the Stone Arch Bridge.
"In Minnesota, safe, attractive, and accessible outdoor spaces are key to our much-valued quality of life," said Gov. Mark Dayton. "In our cities, we rely upon our parks for individual recreation, family outings, and community activities. I congratulate Minneapolis upon receiving this national recognition for providing our country's best park system."
TOP 10 CITY PARK SYSTEMS
2. New York
3. Boston (tie)
3. Sacramento (tie)
3. San Francisco
6. Washington, DC
8. Virginia Beach
9. San Diego
BOTTOM 13 CITY PARK SYSTEMS
38. Houston (tie)
38. Miami (tie)
38. Nashville (tie)
38. Tucson (tie)
43. Oklahoma City
44. Jacksonville (tie)
44. San Antonio (tie)
46. Mesa, Ariz.
47. Indianapolis (tie)
47. Charlotte (tie)
Over a century ago -- 130 years in fact, Minneapolis residents decided that green spaces and parks were too important to trust to City Hall alone. That's why they formed an independent Parks Board to make sure each neighborhood had access to one.
"You have really good access," said Adrian Benepe, with Trust of Public Land. "You have high median park size and 94 percent of residents live within a 10-minute walk from a park. Your median-sized park is 6 acres, which is six times bigger than that of New York City."
Yet, the Trust for Public Land says there is still room for improvement, especially downtown.
"You have a really great downtown already," Benepe said. "It's got great life, great restaurants, great stores -- but the missing piece is really those great downtown parks like Boston and San Francisco and New York City, like Grant Park and Washington Square. You get those, then I think you're No. 1 for decades to come."
That said, the newly-proposed green space near the new Vikings Stadium could be just the asset they're seeking -- and park leaders know it.
"You know, when you think about a city of lakes and a city of parks, our downtown core doesn't have that," said Park Board Superintendent Jayne Miller.
Miller said the Parks Board hopes to hear ideas from the public on what they'd like the downtown park to become since the city is still in the discussion stage.