These Might Be the 15 Ugliest Cities in the United States

Since the United States is such a huge piece of land, it’s safe to say not all of it is postcard worthy. The term “ugliest cities” is surely subjective and could factor in a number of things, such as crime rate, abandoned buildings, planning, and so on.

Another way to rank cities by beauty is parkland – or lack of it. Parks serve as the community center for picnics, farmer’s markets, and concerts. Increasing parkland in a neighborhood can reduce crime rates by giving young people a safe haven off the streets. The greenery provided by parks can help cancel out the urban jungle of traffic noise, pollution, and concrete buildings. Here are 15 U.S. cities that could be classified as “ugliest” due to offering a low percentage of parkland.

Data on the cities in this article came from The Trust for Public Land, which ranked the 100 largest U.S. cities by how well each is meeting the need for parks. Each city received a point score, called a ParkScore, with 100 being the highest possible score. Top-ranking cities include Minneapolis and San Francisco, which are known for having lush parks around every corner. These cities’ parks are accessible to most people, and a whopping 15-20% of total acres are devoted to parkland. Now, let’s take a look at cities at the other end of the spectrum and see how they compare.

15. Irving, Texas

Skyscraper in Irving

The parks need some help. | asiantiger247/ Getty Images

  • ParkScore: 36.5/100
  • City land devoted to parks: 5%
  • Playgrounds per 10,000 residents: 3.3

Although Irving, Texas was given a Tree City USA designation in 2009, the parks in Irving (population 229,450) could use some improvement. Only 1,920 of the city’s total 37,060 acres are parkland. Just $59 is spent per each of the 229,450 residents on parks, and the number of people served per park acre is 120. Seniors, kids, or anyone else interested in park recreation services may even need to look elsewhere, as there isn’t even one recreation center per 20,000 residents. Those looking to play a game of basketball are provided with just 1.2 hoops per 10,000 residents.

Next: Another Texas city has 75 parks but is still low on parkland.

14. Lubbock, Texas

Buildings and architecture downtown city skyline Lubbock, Texas

Very little is actually devoted to park lands. | ChrisBoswell/ Getty Images

  • ParkScore: 36.5/100
  • City land devoted to parks: 3%
  • Playgrounds per 10,000 residents: 2.5

The city of Lubbock, Texas reports having 75 parks, but based on its 36.5/100 ParkScore, only 2,228 of its 76,929 acres are devoted to parkland. Only $46 is spent per each of its 242,000 residents on parks, with 109 people served per park acre. Although the city says it offers “many outdoors and amenities for citizens of any age,” it doesn’t even offer one recreation center for every 20,000 residents. Those seeking to shoot some hoops will find 1.1 basketball hoops per 10,000 residents.

Next: A city known for bike paths could use some work on its parks.

13. Tucson, Arizona

Cityscape of Tucson downtown, Arizona

The mountains are gorgeous, but the parks, not so much. | iStock/Getty Images

  • ParkScore: 36.5/100
  • City land devoted to parks: 3%
  • Playgrounds per 10,000 residents: 1.8

Tucson should be applauded for having more than 700 miles of bike lanes. (Outside magazine named it the No. 1 Bike Town in 2012.) It also was designated a Playful City USA Community for the 11th time in 2017. However, the city was lacking in ParkScore points. For instance, only 4,687 of its 146,724 acres are parkland. A total of 114 residents are served per park acre, with $71 spent per resident on parks. There are just 0.8 recreation centers for every 20,000 residents in this city of 535,294. Basketball players will find 1.2 hoops per 10,000 residents.

Next: A city with relatively few public playgrounds

12. Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

oklahoma city

They just don’t prioritize parks. | Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

  • ParkScore: 36/100
  • City land devoted to parks: 7%
  • Playgrounds per 10,000 residents: 2.1

Although Oklahoma City’s Will Rogers Gardens and the Martin Park Nature Center have received high marks on review sites for having beautiful scenery and pleasant walking trails, the city’s 36/100 ParkScore leaves room for improvement. Just 26,004 of its 378,472 acres are parks. Of the city’s 544,680 residents, 21 people are served per park acre. There are just 0.9 recreation centers per 20,000 residents and 2.3 basketball hoops per 10,000 residents. Park spending per resident was $72.

Next: A city offers frog watching but still got a low parks score.

11. Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Baton Rouge and The Mississipi River

The city has many perks, but parks are not one of them. | BERKO85/iStock/Getty Images

  • ParkScore: 35/100
  • City land devoted to parks: 3%
  • Playgrounds per 10,000 residents: 2.9

Baton Rouge’s parks offer frog watching, solar viewing, horse shows, movie nights, and even swamp flashlight nights. Nevertheless, the city of 229,375 got a relatively low ParkScore. Only 1,252 of its 48,353 acres are devoted to parks. This translates to 183 people served per park acre in the city of 229,375 people. The city fared a little better than some others on the list for recreation centers, offering 2.9 per 20,000 residents. For basketball players, 5.1 hoops are provided per 10,000 residents. Spending per resident on parks was $51.

Next: The Raisin Capital of the World devotes just 4% of its land to parks.

10. Fresno, California

Best Little City in the USA welcome sign on Van Ness Avenue

You’ll have to go outside the city to enjoy the great outdoors. | gnagel/iStock / Getty Images Plus

  • ParkScore: 33.5/100
  • City land devoted to parks: 4%
  • Playgrounds per 10,000 residents: 1.5

The City of Fresno may provide green space and organized recreation programs to its 484,965 residents, but it received a low ParkScore. Only 2,904 of its 71,486 acres are occupied by parks. That comes out to 167 people served per park acre. Fresno offers just 0.3 recreation/senior centers per 20,000 residents and 3.6 basketball hoops per 10,000 residents. Spending per resident on parks is $38.

Next: A city whose name means “high prairie” gives just 1% of its land to parks.

9. Hialeah, Florida

Hialeah, Florida

Only 1% of the city’s land is devted to parks. | Ivan Curra/Wikimedia Commons

  • ParkScore: 33.5/100
  • City land devoted to parks: 1%
  • Playgrounds per 10,000 residents: 0.7

Hialeah, Florida’s parks department boasts 23 beautiful parks with hundreds of acres of green space and recreational facilities. However, its low ParkScore comes in part from the fact that only 1% of the city’s 13,666 acres is parks. Taking into account a population of 228,613, that translates to 1,121 – a high number of people – served per just one park acre. Residents will find 1.6 recreational centers per 20,000 people and 3.1 basketball hoops per 10,000. Hialeah spends $38 per resident on parks.

Next: A southern city named after a U.S. president made the list.

8. Jacksonville, Florida

Jacksonville, Florida, USA downtown

Not many people live close enough to the parks to enjoy them. | Sean Pavone/iStock/Getty Images

  • ParkScore: 33.5/100
  • City land devoted to parks: 14%
  • Playgrounds per 10,000 residents: 3.3

The Jacksonville parks website boasts athletic facilities, community and senior centers, aquatic facilities, golf courses, and more, but its ParkScore suffered in part because a low percentage of the city’s 869,421 residents lived within a 10-minute walk from a park. A total 64,603 acres of the city’s 467,298 – or 14% – are parks. There are 1.4 recreation centers per 20,000 residents, and 1.8 basketball hoops per 10,000 residents. The city spends $33 per resident on parks.

Next: A Mexican border city offers up little land for parks.

7. Laredo, Texas

Downtown Apartment still stands for Residences living near the Mexican Borde

Only 2% of the land is devoted to parks. | DavieJones13/iStock/Getty Images

  • ParkScore: 3.25/100
  • City land devoted to parks: 2%
  • Playgrounds per 10,000 residents: 2.4

Laredo’s parks website advertises splash parks, skate parks, recreation centers, swimming pools, softball fields, and tennis and racquetball courts. Like several of the others on the list, Laredo received a low score in the category of percentage of city land devoted to parks. Of its 55,391 acres, only 1,182 acres (or 2%) of Laredo’s land is devoted to parks. With a population of 250,903, that translates to 212 people served per park acre. The city offers one recreational/senior center per 20,000 residents and 10.2 basketball hoops per 10,000 people. Spending per resident on parks is $66.

Next: Parks with babbling brooks & an observation pier still didn’t make the cut.

6. Winston-Salem, North Carolina

Winston-Salem, NC, USA

Only 4% of city land is devoted to parks. | Bryan Pollard/iStock/Getty Images

  • ParkScore: 32.5/100
  • City land devoted to parks: 4%
  • Playgrounds per 10,000 residents: 1.9

Winston-Salem offers parks with amenities like historic buildings onsite, babbling brooks, a pool with a high dive, observation piers, trails, and more. What contributed to its low ParkScore was its small amount of city land devoted to parks, which comes out to 3,688 acres of a total 83,917 acres (or just 4%). In addition, a low percentage of residents are near enough to walk to a park. With a population of 232,880, that’s 63 people served by just one park acre. The city offers 1.5 recreation centers per 20,000 residents and 1.3 basketball hoops per 10,000 residents. Spending per resident on parks is $42.

Next: The third largest city in Arizona needs more parkland.

5. Mesa, Arizona

Mesa, Arizona

There’s not that much park versus population. | RobertSilberblatt/iStock/Getty Images

  • ParkScore: 31.5/100
  • City land devoted to parks: 3%
  • Playgrounds per 10,000 residents: 1.4

Parks in Mesa include a BMX bike park and a park with walking paths leading to caves. Sounds pretty cool, huh? However, like most of the others, what contributed to the city’s low ParkScore was its small percentage of city land devoted to parks: Only 2,480 acres of its 83,578 total are parks. With a population of 472,734, this comes out to a whopping 191 people served by each park acre. Recreation centers were also few and far between, with .2 per 20,000 residents. Basketball hoop frequency fared a little better, with 2.7 per 10,000 people. Spending per resident on parks is $69.

Next: The home of the Kentucky Derby

4. Louisville, Kentucky

Louisville, KY

Many people aren’t able to walk to the parks. | toddtaulman/iStock/Getty Images

  • ParkScore: 31/100
  • City land devoted to parks: 7%
  • Playgrounds per 10,000 residents: 2.4

Moving a bit further to the north, Louisville is the 18th largest city on the list. While the city offers around 118 parks, many people are not within walking distance of them. Also, parkland makes up only 7% of the total 240,264 acres. With 759,885 residents, this comes out to 43 people served by one park acre. The city only offers one recreation center for every 40,000 residents and 2.3 basketball hoops per 10,000 people. Spending on parks per resident is $50.

Next: The Queen City

3. Charlotte, North Carolina

Charlotte, North Carolina, USA

Charlotte received the lowest score for resident accessibility. | Sean Pavone/iStock/Getty Images

  • ParkScore: 29/100
  • City land devoted to parks: 4%
  • Playgrounds per 10,000 residents: 2.3

Charlotte’s parks include both urban ones and historic sites featuring a plantation and restored barns. The ParkScore was so low in part because the city received the lowest possible score for accessibility. Many or most residents are not within walking distance of a park. The city also received a low mark for only 4% of its 332,295 acres being parkland. With a population of 862,032, that’s 62 people served per park acre. Charlotte offers less than 1 recreational/senior center per 20,000 residents and jut 1.3 basketball hoops per 10,000 people. Spending on parks per resident is $45.

Next: A historic fort city could use more parkland.

2. Fort Wayne, Indiana

The downtown district in Fort Wayne

It seems like they have a lot, but they score low on the list. | wellesenterprises/iStock/Getty Images

  • ParkScore: 28.5/100
  • City land devoted to parks: 3%
  • Playgrounds per 10,000 residents: 2.3

Fort Wayne offers 86 parks, featuring 20 pavilions, 62 tennis courts, 61 playgrounds, three pools, one seasonal ice rink, and seven spray yards. However, the city only devotes 3% of its 69,318 acres to parkland, contributing to its low ParkScore. With a population of 246,777, that means 103 people are served per park acre. Only 0.4 senior centers are offered per 20,000 residents and 1.8 basketball hoops per 10,000 residents. Fort Wayne spends $79 per resident on parks.

Next: Another Indiana city got the absolute lowest park score.

1. Indianapolis

Downtown Indianapolis skyline at twilight

They offer limited accessibility and recreation centers. | iStock/Getty Images

  • ParkScore: 28.5/100
  • City land devoted to parks: 5%
  • Playgrounds per 10,000 residents: 1.5

The city of Indianapolis offers 211 parks with 125 playgrounds, 135 miles of trails, 23 recreation and nature centers, 19 aquatic centers, 21 spray grounds, and more. With all of this to offer, why did the city rank dead last on the list? It received low ratings for walking access to parks and for only devoting 5% of its total 225,965 city acres to parkland. With a population of 857,203, that’s 75 people served by one single park acre. Indy only offers 1 recreation/senior center per 40,000 residents and 2.2 basketball hoops per 10,000 residents. Spending per resident on parks is relatively low too, at $35.

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