Gathering Place in Tulsa, Okla. was named the best new attraction in America last year by USA Today. It’s a sprawling $465 million park with lakes, gardens, wetlands and an extravagant playground. Essentially, it’s a public park, built and maintained with private dollars, and in that regard, it’s an exception as urban public parks go.
Public parks more often claw for funding in crowded city budgets where fire, public safety and other vital day-to-day services are the competition. But some cities are making more room for green spaces.
In fact, the level of investment they receive separates the top parks systems in the country from all the rest.
The city of Minneapolis, considered to have the nation’s best metropolitan park system, spent $249.11 per capita in both public and private spending in 2018, according to data from the Trust for Public Land, a national nonprofit parks advocacy group. In the City of Pittsburgh, park spending was less than $100 per capita, with most of the money coming from private sources.
Public spending is critical to ongoing maintenance costs and building new parks, park connections and amenities. But today cities are looking beyond their public budgets for help, exploring innovative ways to tackle the challenge of sustainable funding, ranging from the creation of private parks to raising endowments to cover programs and maintenance...