Over the years, Irvine has established a well-known reputation for maintaining pristine parks and outdoor spaces. Thanks to this commitment, Trust For Public Land, a non-profit organization focused on ensuring people have access to nature and the outdoors, has ranked Irvine in the top 10 among the nation’s 100 largest cities. 

This year, Irvine was ranked eighth in the nation and second in California, finishing behind San Francisco. 

Specifically, rankings are completed via the ParkScore Index, a scoring system that Trust For Public Land calculates based on multiple categories, including access, investment, acreage and amenities. 

The ParkScore Index has become recognized as a gold standard assessment model, assessing aspects of walkability to parks for residents, access to facilities, and how much space is dedicated to parks within the city. 

With a total of 306 parks in Irvine, there is plenty of open space for rest, recreation and exploration. With a median national ParkScore of 19% for total park space, Irvine’s 37% of total park space doubles the median of more than 14,000 cities and towns in the ParkServe database

Out of a total of 100, Irvine received a score of 83 for access, a score of 77 for acreage, a score of 93 for investment, 68 for amenities and 62 for equity. 

While ranked highly nationally, Irvine’s scores lowered considerably regarding access to park space in relation to race or ethnicity, or where “residents in neighborhoods where most people identify as a person of color,” according to the report. 

While white neighborhoods overwhelmingly exceeded the city median at 85% (more access), black neighborhoods fell 25% below the city median, Asian neighborhoods reported 18% less access to parks, while Hispanic and Latinx neighborhoods fell 12% below the city median. 

Less obtrusive results were found when comparing nearby park space between low-income and high-income neighborhoods. High-income neighborhoods have just 3% more access, while lower-income neighborhoods fell 4% under the city median. 

However, the ParkScore Index scores improved when considering how easily all Irvine residents could walk to a park near their home. TPL found that 89% of Irvine residents live within a 10-minute walk to a park. In terms of access within that space, Irvine has received 100 out of 100 for installing 17.1 basketball hoops for every 10,000 people. Alternatively, Irvine provides 4.2 playgrounds, and 3.1 bathrooms per 10,000 people. 

In terms of investments, the ParkScore Index also found that Irvine spends nearly $200 per capita on its parks and open spaces. At $155 per-capita, Irvine’s city agency spending on parks, which is only 85% of total parks spending city-wide, exceeds the total national average of $98 per-capita in parks spending. In total, Irvine spends $185 per-capita on parks spending. 

In a statement, Irvine Mayor Farrah Khan emphasized the importance of open space throughout the city, adding that the city will continue to evolve with the mindset that parks will continue to fit seamlessly into the city’s master plan.  

“We are proud to be recognized as having one of the top 10 park systems in the nation for the seventh consecutive year,” Khan said. “The preservation of natural open space, parks, and trails has always been an essential part of our Irvine Master Plan, and it continues to guide us as we plan for the future. Our parks and open space bolster the ongoing health and wellness of our community and contribute to our excellent quality of life.”

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