With the debate continuing about whether Evanston should sell the lakefront Harley Clarke mansion, here’s a look at how Evanston compares with nearby communities in terms of acres of parkland per 1,000 residents.

The numbers come from the Community Data Snapshots prepared by the Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning. The chart includes all communities in Cook County east of I-294 and north of the City of Chicago, as well as Chicago itself.

The numbers count all park acreage in each community — not just parkland owned by the municipality. That accounts, among other things, for the very high number for Glencoe, which is home to the Chicago Botanic Garden, located on land owned by the Forest Preserve District of Cook County.

Evanston’s total of 34.3 acres of parkland per 1,000 residents includes not only the 290 acres of city-owned parks, but land controlled by the two separate park districts in Evanston, the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District and the forest preserve district.

The numbers for the 14 communities show Evanston in the middle of the group — with seven communities having less parkland per capita and six having more.

How much parkland a community should have has been the subject of some controversy. Over a century ago, one expert suggested 15 acres per 1,000 residents was the proper number. And in the middle of the last century the National Recreation and Parks Association followed a standard that called for 10 acres per thousand residents.

More recently, advocacy groups like the Trust for Public Land have argued for more complex measures that consider factors like how easy it is for residents to reach parks in addition to the total amount of land set aside for parks. But so far the trust has only calculated data to rank the nation’s 100 largest cities by its new measure — leaving Evanston unrated on that scale.

The portion of the Harley Clarke mansion grounds that a city committee has been evaluating for a possible sale or other new use amounts to about 2.5 acres, or less than one-tenth of one percent of the park acreage in the city, by the CMAP count.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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  1. more help


    Is there a list showing each city's population, total acreage, and park acreage. Also, can Evanston be broken down the same way (maybe by Ward unless there is a better mefhod). South of downtown it is near impossible to walk another block without seeing another block.

    Is it true that much of what it is thought of as school playground, is actually park land in Evanston?

    1. More data

      Hi Skip,

      The Community Data Snapshots from CMAP, which I linked to in the story, have some of the data you're looking for.

      I am not aware of a breakdown of the data by ward for Evanston, but just looking at a map would give you some sense of the comparisons.

      To the best of my knowledge, all of Evanston's public school playgrounds are owned by the school districts. (And the cty park known as known as Foster Field is actually owned by District 65.)

      Presumably CMAP uses a consistent methodology for accounting for such spaces across the communities in the region.

      — Bill

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