Bridging the park divide in America

Does your dog deserve a private park? The money many jurisdictions are spending on private dog parks, open-space allotments and recreational plaza space can be more effectively spent on park maintenance and investments in neighborhood parks. The report examined the public investment of $1.5 billion in private dog parks, open space allotments and recreation plaza space in 23 of the District’s neighborhoods between 2007 and 2016. We found that these parks tended to be more luxurious than nearby neighborhood parks and better maintained. But by contrast, at least nine nearby neighborhood parks and, to a lesser extent, the District of Columbia’s central park were poorly maintained, with litter and numerous other unsanitary conditions. More thorough inspection and staff inspection of surrounding neighborhood parks could have prevented many of these problems. The district’s lack of a robust approach to building new parkland often leads to poor levels of upkeep of existing parks. We found that the prices for new parkland land are higher than the existing costs for public parkland, and that city officials focus on the “highest quality” park designs. These decisions reflect short-term thinking—politically popular and popular with dogs—at the expense of complete park maintenance for the district’s residents. The assessment reveals gaps in our current park infrastructure, and it calls on the city to better maintain existing parks and build new ones with better facilities and better amenities.

Download the full report, a follow-up written by Social Capital’s co-founders and an editor on the parks

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