Racial inequality in space in Denver and Aurora Park

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A fascinating new study reveals racial inequalities in Denver and Aurora in terms of the area dedicated to parks in neighborhoods that are largely populated by colored people compared to mostly white sections.

Parks and Equitable Recovery, published May 27 by the Trust for Public Land, continues the organization’s annual tradition of evaluating parking systems in the 100 most populous cities in the United States. The methodology looks at park access (the percentage of residents who live within a 10-minute walk of a park); Parking area (comparison of the city’s mean park size and the percentage of the city’s area dedicated to parks); Parking investments (parking expenses per inhabitant); and park facilities (availability of basketball hoops, off-leash dog parks, playgrounds, “splashpads” and other water play structures, recreation and senior centers, and toilets).

That year, however, TPL added a park equity component that compares parking area per capita in colored neighborhoods to that in white neighborhoods and examines space for parks in low-income neighborhoods and high-income neighborhoods. It also calculates the percentage of neighborhoods with different demographics that are within ten minutes’ walk of a park.

Overall, Denver and Aurora placed well and ended up in the upper quarter of the major American metropolises. Denver finished eighteenth while Aurora settled in 25th. Here’s the rundown, including the scores for each city, with the two Colorado settings in italics.

1. Washington, DC: 84.4
2. St. Paul, MN: 80.0
3. Minneapolis, MN: 79.7
4. Arlington, VA: 79.6
5. Chicago, IL: 77.2
6. San Francisco, CA: 76.3
7. Irvine, CA: 76.0
8. Cincinnati, OH: 75.9
9. Seattle, WA: 75.4
10. Portland, OR: 75.0
11. New York, NY: 74.8
12. Boston, MA: 73.5
13. Madison, WI: 73.4
14. St. Petersburg, FL: 70.4
15. Plano, TX: 68.6
16. St. Louis, MO: 68.4
17. Spokane, WA: 66.9
18. Denver, CO: 65.7
19. Philadelphia, PA: 64.9
20. Kansas City, MO: 63.8
21. Pittsburgh, PA: 63.3
22. Henderson, NV: 63.2
23. Lincoln, NE: 62.7
24. Cleveland, OH: 62.3
25. Aurora, CO: 62.0

Denver did best for access, scoring 85 out of a possible 100. It received 50 points in the farmland category, 58 points for amenities, 69 points for investments (US $ 132 per person, well above the national average of US $ 96) and 68 points for equity.

The percentage of Denver residents within a ten-minute walk of a park actually showed that Hispanic and Latin American individuals had an advantage over whites: 92 percent versus 89 percent. The other percentages: 87 percent for black residents, 92 percent for Native American residents, 89 percent for Asian residents, and 84 percent for Pacific islanders.

However, the larger gaps were seen in parking space per capita compared to the combined median of the 100 largest US cities. In Denver, colored neighborhoods have an estimated 16 percent less parking space than the median, while white neighborhoods have 3 percent more than the median. Likewise, low-income neighborhoods in Denver have 11 percent less parking space than the median, while high-income neighborhoods have 20 percent more parking space.

In Aurora, the top category was investments with 85 out of 100 points (the city spends $ 166 per person on parks), followed closely by 80 points for access. But the furnishings only deserved 33 points, the acreage was 61 points and the equity ratio was just slightly above average at 52 points.

As in Denver, a smaller percentage of white Aurorans are within a ten-minute walk of a park than members of several other groups: 84 percent for whites, 89 percent for Indians, 86 percent for Asians, 88 percent for blacks, 90 percent for Hispanics and Latinx. Residents and 90 percent for Pacific Islanders.

But the inequalities in terms of parking space per capita are much greater in Aurora than in Denver. People of color have 44 percent less parking space than their neighborhood average, while whites have an astonishing 89 percent above the median. Likewise, low-income Aurora neighborhoods have 33 percent less parking space per capita than the median, and high-income people enjoy 46 percent more than the median.

Bottom Line: Most black and low-income Denver and Aurora residents have a park within a ten-minute walk, but that park probably won’t be nearly as big as the one in close proximity to high-income whites.

For more information on Denver and Aurora parks, and to read the Trust for Public Land report, Parks and a Equitable Recovery, click here.

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Michael Roberts has been writing for Westword since October 1990, where he worked as a music editor and media columnist. It currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.

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