Study: Fort Wayne is 8th worst city for recreation

Matthew Leighty, catches his son Ian Leighty, 4, during a swimming lesson at North Side Park's pool in 2012. (News-Sentinel.com file photo)

According to a new study from the experts at WalletHub, Fort Wayne is considered the 8th worst city for recreation out of the 100 largest U.S. cities.

The study comes as the month of July is National Parks and Recreation month. America’s largest cities invested over $7 billion this past year on parks according to WalletHub, which is a personal-finance based website. The study used 45 indicators for recreational friendliness, with Fort Wayne falling short in many areas.

Source: WalletHub

In fact, one of the few areas that Fort Wayne was actually in the upper half was on spending per capita on parks, where the city ranked 48th overall.

“There is a ton of data that demonstrates investing in parks pays off,” said Kimberly Shinew, a professor of Recreation Sport and Tourism at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. “High quality parks attract businesses and residents. They lead to higher community satisfaction as well.”

Shinew was one of seven experts consulted in the WalletHub study, as well as Nathan T. Martin, Dale Larsen, Robert Sanford, Deb Jordan, Hugh M. Gibson and Ric Kolenda.

“I think the biggest mistake is assuming what citizens want,” said Kolenda, a a professional lecturer with the School of Public Service at DePaul University. “The best way to remedy this is simply to ask the question. Having a beautiful trail along the river is great, but if it’s not accessible by bike, talking or transit, it will be underutilized. Don’t assume folks want a state of the art facility downtown, when they might rather have a swing set and a patch of green in their neighborhood.”

While Fort Wayne was 48th on spending, the city ranks 87th when it comes to park land as a percentage of city area and 88th in percent of population with walkable park access.

The city does hit midrange on the list in tennis courts per capita at 51st, but drops back to 77th in park playgrounds and 78th in swimming pools per capita. The city has seen up and down interest in city swimming pools over the years. Currently, the city operates pools at North Side Park on East State Blvd. and Parnell Avenue, McMillen Park on Oxford Street and Memorial on Maumee and Glasgow.

Bike rental facilities per capita in Fort Wayne rank 67th.

Fort Wayne’s lowest ranking position is, perhaps surprisingly, with music venues per capita, where the city ranks 95th.

According to Jordan, a professor of Recreation and Leisure Studies at East Carolina University, the top five indicators when evaluating the best cities for recreation are “available and accessible park space, diversity of recreation programs and services, outdoor recreation opportunities (even if it is only scenery, this a major factor in choosing where to live), cultural events and opportunities for lifelong learning.”

Indianapolis ranked 79th overall against Fort Wayne’s 93rd. Fort Wayne ranked 69th in entertainment and recreational facilities, 25th in costs, 89th in quality of parks and 96th in the weather category.

Orlando, Florida ranked number one on the WalletHub study overall, also ranking first in entertainment and recreational facilities, but 48th in quality of parks rank. Laredo, Texas (55th overall) ranked first in costs. New York, New York (29th overall) ranked first in quality of parks. Riverside, California (84th overall) ranked first in weather.

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