What are we measuring?
There are a number of ways to measure how well a community provides its residents with opportunities for outdoor recreation. The Trust for Public Land combines a number of measures such as park acreage per resident, walkable access, and spending to derive a single park score; however, that organization rates large municipalities rather than counties. We have chosen instead to use a single measure for which data is readily available for Fulton County and its national benchmark counties: public parkland acreage per 1,000 residents. While this measure may not capture all factors determining outdoor recreational opportunities, the amount of land set aside as parkland is an important measure of opportunities for healthy outdoor activities.
Why are we measuring it?
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), parks and trails benefit health in a number of ways:
- Parks encourage physical activity, especially if they are within walking distance;
- Parks can improve mental health by serving as a venue for stress reduction;
- Parks promote a healthy environment by helping to reduce air and water pollution and protect sensitive from inappropriate development, and mitigate urban heat islands;
- Parks encourage social interaction by providing meeting places for neighbors;
- Parks and trails can reduce injury by providing safe spaces for people to play and exercise, away from busy streets and commercial zones.
How are we doing?
Fulton County ranks near the bottom among its national benchmark counties in terms of park acreage per 1,000 residents. Only Mecklenburg County, North Carolina has fewer acres of public parkland. While a large part of parkland in some benchmark counties is due to the presence of state and national parks or preserves within the county, the parkland in other counties is made up almost exclusively of local parks. The large park acreage in Orange County, Florida for example is due largely to the large state preserves in the eastern part of the county. In contrast, Milwaukee County has only local parks but still has twice as much park acreage as Fulton County. Hennepin County, Minnesota, second only to Orange County among the benchmark counties, is home to one state park and a national wildlife sanctuary, but over 90 percent of its park acreage in accounted for by a collection of nearly 500 local parks.
The maps below graphically illustrates the differences in parkland acreage between Fulton County and Hennepin County, Minnesota. Even when considering only local parks, Hennepin County has three and a half times more park acreage has Fulton.
Fulton County, Georgia
- Area: 527 square miles
- Population: 1,010,562
- Park acreage per 1,000 residents: 7.0
Hennepin County, Minnesota
- Area: 554 square miles
- Population: 1,223,149
- Park acreage per 1,000 residents: 28.3