D.C. ranked fifth among the nation's 40 largest cities and scored high marks for its park access and park space. Nearly all residents -- 96 percent -- live within a 10-minute walk of a park, and roughly one of every five acres in the city is devoted to park space.
But the city's score, a four out of five possible points, was hurt by its small median park size and relatively few playgrounds and fields.
That low supply of playing space is one reason residents flock to the National Mall for pickup games, said Peter Harnik, director of the Center for City Park Excellence at the nonprofit Trust for Public Land, which released the report.
|1. San Francisco|
|3. New York|
|6. Portland, Ore.|
|7. Virginia Beach|
|8. San Diego|
|Source: Trust for Public Land|
"In an ideal world, you wouldn't have to play softball with tourists walking up and down the Mall," he said. "Many of the teams have to go to more suburban locations to play," he later added.
Ward 6 D.C. Councilman Tommy Wells, who chairs the parks and recreation committee, said creating more park space that's open to recreational activities is "clearly an area where we need to do more work."
He added he has inserted several measures into the 2013 budget proposal that would address that, including creating a division within the Department of Parks and Recreation that is focused solely on developing park space, and the budget adds $500,000 for a new playground downtown.
The city is also challenged by the fact that the National Park Service owns and controls much of its parkland.
Harnik, who is also a longtime District resident, said the city's attention to park space has improved over the years, particularly with the addition of dog parks and cleaning up waterfronts in Georgetown and in Southeast near Nationals Park.