Des Moines’ Park System Jumps to 25 in National Rankings

DES MOINES, IOWA — Monday, May 6, 2019 —
Des Moines Parks and Recreation now ranks among the top 25 park systems in the country, according to the recently released Trust for Public Land’s (TPL) 2022 ParkScore rankings, up from 35th in 2021.  Des Moines is the smallest city by population in the program, as the scores compare the largest 100 cities in the United States. Des Moines soared above other cities such as Atlanta, San Diego, Tampa and Omaha on the strength of increased capital investments from the city and partners, added park amenities such as the new restrooms at Witmer Park, a new playground at Riverview Park and six new basketball hoops at Weeks Middle School Park.

“Considering our population, to be included in these rankings is an honor, but to appear in the top 25 is truly a testament to the vision and investment from our City Council, Parks and Recreation Board and community,” said Benjamin R. Page, Director of Parks and Recreation. “Our department is made up of hard-working individuals who are dedicated to providing top-notch facilities for residents and visitors.”

The ParkScore index is based on five rating factors:
  • Park equity compares per capita park space and 10-minute-walk park access in communities of color vs. white communities and in low-income neighborhoods vs. high income neighborhoods. Park systems score higher if disparities are low or non-existent;
  • Park access measures the percentage of residents living within a 10-minute walk of a park; 
  • Park acreage is based on a city’s median park size and the percentage of city area dedicated to parks; 
  • Park investment measures park spending per resident; and 
  • Park amenities assesses the availability of six popular park features: basketball hoops, off-leash dog parks, playgrounds, “splash pads” and other water play structures, recreation and senior centers, and restrooms
The department continues to push forward on equity-based park system development and programming, as guided by the department’s comprehensive plan, LiveDSM. Our Equitable Service Neighborhood Park Programming (Summer Camp) initiative is being implemented in four new neighborhood parks in 2022 and five sites in 2023. All parks proposed for Equitable Services programming are in areas of high equity need and equally distributed across the city.

Over the next few years, millions of dollars in capital improvements specifically target areas with the greatest need/priority for amenities, access, equity and investment. Projects include those such as the Central Place Levee Trail, Neal Smith Trail Rehabilitation, Evelyn K. Davis Park Basketball Renovation, North Side Community Recreation Center (Grubb YMCA) as well as improvements at Evergreen, Cohen and Chesterfield Parks.

Click here to view Des Moines’ full rating report.

Benjamin R. Page
Director, Parks and Recreation

About Des Moines Parks and Recreation
Founded in 1892, the Parks and Recreation Department’s mission is “Helping Des Moines Live Well, Play Hard and Protect the Earth.”  Our department is responsible for the management of 76 parks, over 4,000 acres of parkland, 88 miles of trails, seven cemeteries and numerous recreational facilities.  In addition, we offer programs in the areas of sports, urban conservation, environmental education, sport instruction, volunteerism, rentals and special events.  For more information on Des Moines Parks and Recreation programs or facilities, visit our website (, Facebook, TwitterInstagram  or LinkedIn