Park Access

Percentage of population living within a 10 minute walk of green space

ParkServe®. Data from 2022.
Dashboard-City Average

Why do we measure park access?

Access to parks has been associated with better mental and physical health, lower death rates, and improved social connection.1-3 Although a growing body of research evidence links park access to health, the reasons why are not yet fully clear. Research has shown that green space may be associated with increased physical activity, reduced stress, improved quality of life, and better mental health across different groups of people.1-9 Parks and green space may be associated with increased neighborhood social ties by serving as meeting places for local residents and spaces for community events.1, 2, 10 Parks also have positive environmental outcomes, including reduced air pollution and extreme heat, especially in urban areas.1

However, access to parks historically has been inequitable  because of laws barring access to Black people and because a larger number of parks have been built in mostly White and high-income neighborhoods.11-15 The legacy of these barriers, continued discriminatory policies, and unequal structural investments (e.g., more funding for parks in predominantly White and wealthy areas) can prevent Black and Latino people from accessing parks and their benefits.12-14, 16 (Others, including Asian Americans, American Indians, Alaska Natives, and people of multiple races, may be affected in similar ways. However, available sources do not always delineate the experiences of different racial or ethnic groups in this context.)

How do we measure park access?

This metric gives the percent of the population that lives within a 10-minute walk of a park. The measure includes publicly-owned local, state, and national parks; school parks with a joint-use agreement; and privately-owned parks that allow public use.

Strengths and Limitations

Strengths of Metric

Limitations of Metric

• This metric is actionable: City- and community-based initiatives can spur the building of new parks and/or improvement of existing ones.17

• Increasing park access and green space not only provides health benefits, but can also have positive environmental impacts and support neighborhood social ties.1

• This metric is available broken down by race and ethnicity, which can help target resources and interventions for groups that historically have been underrepresented.



• The magnitude of the health impact of parks may vary according to the size, type, and quality of the park, which is not reflected in the metric calculation.1, 18-22

• Accessibility and safety of parks, as well as park users’ cultural norms, experience of racism, gender, age, education level, occupation, and income level also affect the relationship between park access and health, but are not included in the metric calculation.1, 4, 11, 19-23 

• Private parks and outdoor spaces are not included in this metric. Areas with private parks may have greater park access than is captured in this metric.

• Race and ethnicity data are often collected using discrete options that may not account for all or multiple identities, leading to undercounting of those who are more likely to select “other.” The size of the health impact of parks may vary according to the size, type, and quality of the park, which is not reflected in the metric calculation.1, 5, 18-21


Park access is calculated by the following formula:

Park access

For more information on the calculation, please refer to the City Health Dashboard Technical Documentation.

Data Source

Estimates for this metric are from ParkServe® data.


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  2. Lee, A.C.K. and R. Maheswaran, The health benefits of urban green spaces: a review of the evidence. Journal of Public Health, 2011. 33(2): p. 212-222.

  3. Kondo, M.C., et al., Urban Green Space and Its Impact on Human Health. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 2018. 15(3): p. 445.

  4. Pope, D., et al., Quality of and access to green space in relation to psychological distress: results from a population-based cross-sectional study as part of the EURO-URHIS 2 project. Eur J Public Health, 2018. 28(1): p. 35-38.

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  10. Astell-Burt T, Feng X, Kolt GS. Green space is associated with walking and moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA) in middle-to-olderaged adults: findings from 203 883 Australians in the 45 and Up Study. Br J Sports Med. 2014;48:404–406

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  13. Maas J, van Dillen SM, Verheij RA et al. Social contacts as a possible mechanism behind the relation between green space and health. Health Place 2009;15(2):586–95.

  14. Bird W. Natural Thinking: Investigating the links between the natural environment, biodiversity and mental health, 2007.London: Royal Society for the Protection of Birds

  15. Abraham A, Sommerhalder K, Abel T. Landscape and well-being: a scoping study on the health-promoting impact of outdoor environments. Int. J. Public Health 2009;55:59–69

  16. Van den Berg AE, Maas J, Verheij RA, et al. Green space as a buffer between stressful live events and health. Soc Sci Med 2010; 70:1203–10.

  17. Alcock I, White MP, Wheeler BW, et al. Longitudinal effects on mental health of moving to greener and less green urban areas. Environ Sci Technol 2014;48:1247–55.

  18. Mitchell R, Popham F. Greenspace, urbanity and health: relationships in England 2007. J Epidemiol Commun Health 2007;61:681–3.

  19. Woo J, Tang N, Suen E, et al., Green space, psychological restoration, and telomere length. Lancet 2009; 373:299–300

  20. Tzoulas K, Korpela K, Venn S, et al. Promoting ecosystem and human health in urban areas using Green Infrastructure: a literature review. Landsc Urban Plann 2007;81:167–78.

  21. Barton J, Pretty J. What is the best dose of nature and green exercise for improving mental health? A multi-study analysis. Environ Sci Technol 2010;44:3947–55

Last updated: June 6, 2023