MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Just a week after being named the “fittest city” in the United States by the American College of Sports Medicine, another group is giving Minneapolis a top national ranking.

The Trust For Public Land said Minneapolis has the best park system in the United States.

There are 6,743 acres of parkland within the city limits, and 94 percent of residents are within a 10-minute walk (one-half mile) of a park.

Even on a damp dreary day, we found Heather Thomson and a friend taking four kids hiking through Theodore Wirth Park.

“Outside is great for the kids,” she said. “I mean exploring and getting exercise and fresh air. It’s great for them.”

It was part of the plan in the 1800s when the early visionaries started mapping the city out.

People like Charles Loring, Theodore Wirth and Horace Cleveland reserved nearly all the land around lakes, rivers and streams for public parks.

Then, they left the rest for development.

“Most other cities built their cities and then they tried to figure out where to fit parks in,” said Jayne Miller, superintendent of the Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board. “Whereas parks were created and the city was built around it here in Minneapolis.”

In the ranking from The Trust for Public Land, the city’s park system scored high in every category — the size of the parks, the amount of money spent on them, and their distribution.

Lower-income neighborhoods in Minneapolis have just as much nearby parkland as the more affluent areas.

“I love coming out here, getting my mind right,” said Khayvon Ross, 14. “I’ve got things on my mind and it helps relieve stress. It’s just beautiful to be in touch with nature, you know. It teaches you a lot.”

Ross and some of his 8th grade classmates from the Best Academy were on a bird-watching trip in Wirth Park, led by the Audubon Chapter of Minneapolis.

The Trust for Public Land hopes to create some competition by releasing these annual rankings.

“It’s great to have New York be number two and say, ‘we’re going to compete with Minneapolis to be number one,'” said Adrian Benepe, director of City Park Development for the group.

Benepe was the commissioner of New York parks for 10 years, and says Minneapolis will be tough to beat.

Since the group’s rankings only cover the 50 largest cities in the United States, St. Paul was not included.

NewsRadio 830 WCCO’s Chris Simon Reports

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