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JACKSONVILLE, Fla -- According to one study measuring the best parks in the country, Jacksonville ranks 44th among the 50 largest U.S. cities.

Jacksonville earned one and a half "park benches" on The Trust for Public Land's ParkScore index.

The overall rating was hurt because the majority of residents do not live within walking distance of a park.

The ranking is bases on three factors:

- Park access, which measures the percentage of residents living within a 10-minute walk of a park (approximately ½-mile)

-Park size, which is based on a city's median park size and the percentage of total city area dedicated to parks

-Services and investment, which combines the number of playgrounds per 10,000 city residents and per capita park spending

Jacksonville performed best on the playgrounds measure, ranking 7th among all 50 ParkScore cities on this rating factor.

However, Jacksonville had one of the lowest park access scores for 2013, with only 31 percent of city residents living within a 10 minute walk of a park.

"Jacksonville is a powerhouse for playgrounds, and that's important, because it helps children get the activity they need to grow up strong and healthy. The city can build on that success with a concerted effort to increase park access, so more residents live within an easy walk of park," said Peter Harnik, Director of the Center for City Park Excellence, a research arm of The Trust for Public Land.

ParkScore rates city park systems on a scale of zero to five park benches.

"I'm veryhappy to bring more opportunity for recreation to Jacksonville," said Jacksonville City Council Member Ray Holt. "The ParkScore ranking has certainly made me more aware of the need for more parks in our communities."

On last year's Park Score index, Jacksonville ranked 34th of 40 cities evaluated.

The city's ranking decline for 2013 was caused by the debut of higher-ranking cities on the 2013 list, not by changes to the local park system.

ParkScore expanded to 50 cities for 2013 and several first-time entrants scored well, including Minneapolis (#1), Colorado Springs (#14), and Omaha (#11).

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