New Orleans, Minneapolis Invest Big on Green Space

New Orleans and Minneapolis are leading a parks and open space renaissance. Their efforts, expenditures and awards inside


What Happened?

New Orleans is focused on reviving its green spaces in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. The city has spent $134 million on restoration of parks and recreational facilities since 2010.


In the past four years, New Orleans has doubled the number of pools in the city limits, and plans to have triple the number of recreation centers by the end of 2014. The city will also complete its 100th mile of bike lane construction which is part of a bike-focused project dating back to 2008. Other green space projects in progress include:

  • 3.1-mile Lafitte Greenway
  • Crescent Park riverfront area connecting to the French Quarter
  • City Park’s 1,300-acre green space reopening
  • Great Lawn lake area with paddle boats, a bike path, fishing pier, and four miles of sidewalks and paths
  • New Orleans’ first official dog run
  • Mini golf course

The challenge, once the developments are complete, will be to ensure enough budget is set aside to maintain the parks long term.

Payment Plan

The city of New Orleans will be responsible for the costs associated with all of the green space projects except for City Park which will fall on the shoulders of the state of Louisiana. New Orleans will dig into its general fund to complete the developments. About $1 million will also be acquired via federal Community Development Block Funds to support recreational projects. The city estimates costs at:

  • $3.3 million annually for parks and parkways maintenance
  • $3.1 million for the New Orleans Recreation Department Commission
  • $659,000 for maintenance and operation costs of Crescent Park
  • $300,000 in annual maintenance costs for the greenway

Prior to the new green space projects, New Orleans’ parks maintenance budget was already above $7 million annually.

The Award Goes To…

Minneapolis has also invested in its parks system and was named No. 1 on The Trust for Public Land’s 3rd Annual ParkScore Index. The Trust for Public Land’s ParkScore Index is an annual analysis and ranking of the 60 largest U.S. cities’ park systems. The index was created to encourage cities to invest in their park systems, which provide residents with access to green space, safe areas for recreation and locations for community events.

ParkScore ratings are based on three factors:

  • Park access: The percentage of residents living within a 10-minute walk of a park
  • Park size: City’s median park size and percentage of total city area dedicated to parks
  • Services and investment: The number of playgrounds per 10,000 city residents and per capita park spending combined

ParkScore uses geographic information system computer mapping technology to determine park accessibility, taking into account obstacles to access and location of park entrances relative to the community. The nonprofit provides city leaders with individualized analysis of their ratings and recommended strategies to improve their parks system.

This year, the index was expanded from 50 to 60 cities. Minneapolis has received top honors on the rankings in the past, but several other metropolitan areas made major jumps this year as a result of park system overhauls, particularly New Orleans and Denver. The other top five cities in the index included New York, Boston, Portland and San Francisco.

Paying for Green Space

Gov1 has reported on several plans to fund public parks systems with private capital, as privatization can alleviate city budgetary strains.