Portland has plenty of park land compared with other large U.S. cities, according to a new national study.

“Inside City Parks,” written by environmental author Peter Harnik and jointly sponsored by the Urban Land Institute and the Trust for Public Land, gives Portland top marks for park and open space acreage. Thanks in large part to the 5,000-acre Forest Park, Portland’s 12,591 acres of parks and open space translate to 26.2 acres for every 1,000 residents, more than double Seattle’s total and fourth-highest among the 25 cities in Harnik’s study.

Then again, the report – which claims to be the first study to compare park systems in the nation’s 25 largest cities – ranks Portland below average for park recreation centers and average for parks innovation.

Harnik says Portland inspired cities nationwide when it decide replaced a six-lane roadway with Tom McCall Waterfront Park more than two decades ago, and again in 1984 when the city decided to build Pioneer Courthouse Square in its downtown instead of another parking garage.

Lately though, Harnik says other cities are stepping up to the plate. In the West, San Diego and Phoenix are dedicating huge swaths of land to nature preserves. Denver is creating a 29-acre commons downtown and including 1,447 acres of greenspace as part of its decommissioning of Stapleton airport.

In the East, Boston is capping a freeway and including 150 acres of new parkland on top. New York has built a successful Central Park conservancy with private money to shore up the city’s showpiece.

Back in Portland, the Metro regional government’s $135 million open space bond has added roughly 500 acres within the city since it was approved in 1995, but the results aren’t as flashy as a new waterfront park or an urban playground like Pioneer Courthouse Square.

City officials admit shortages of neighborhood parks in some areas, and a shortage of modern conveniences like fitness equipment in the city’s aging community centers. At the same time, however, officials point to the $11.9 million community center in Southwest Portland’s Gabriel Park, which received nearly half a million visits in its first year.

As well, Urban renewal districts, where property tax growth is set aside for improvement projects, are paying for planned new parks in the River District and the North Macadam area just south of downtown.

Ultimately, city officials plan to get back atop Harnik’s listing all categories with Eastbank Riverfront Park, another urban renewal project that the city hopes will do for the east side of the Willamette River what Waterfront Park did for the west.

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