Three people were shot at a Westside park last month. One of them died. And that's in one of L.A.'s better neighborhoods.

Los Angeles parks sometimes have a lukewarm reputation. They're essential for apartment-dwelling families. But they can be dangerous breeding grounds for gangs, particularly in Eastside, east Valley and South L.A. communities.

Trust for Public Land's 2015 ParkScore Index, released this morning, found that Los Angeles parks ranked low compared with 74 other U.S. cities the nonprofit examined. But our parks do have their perks.

L.A.'s ranking, 51st, technically dropped from 45th last year. The trust notes, however, that only 60 cities were evaluated in 2014. The drop was “caused by the debut of higher-ranking cities on the 2015 list, not by changes to the local park system,” the organization said in a statement.

So what's L.A.'s problem?

The trust looked at park size (as well as “the percentage of total city area dedicated to parks”), park access (the percentage of residents living within a 10-minute walk), amenities and investment.

Interestingly, Los Angeles scored high on land dedicated to parks, according to the Trust for Public Land:

Los Angeles received high marks for reserving 14.2 percent of city area for parks, beating Long Beach (10.1 percent), Anaheim (7.5 percent) and Santa Ana (3.0 percent) on this measure. However, Los Angeles’ ParkScore was hurt by below-average park spending per resident ($68). 

But we tanked when it comes to access, with only one park “per 10,000 residents, the second lowest rate among all 75 ParkScore cities,” the trust says.

Southern California in general had a sad showing for the availability of playgrounds, with Long Beach coming in third lowest, Santa Ana coming in fourth lowest and Anaheim ranking ninth from the bottom.

Despite that, the big local star for this year's ParkScore Index is a place called Long Beach. It ranked 18th nationwide and first in Southern California, according to the trust, which said:

Long Beach rose six spots in the 2015 ParkScore rankings, largely because the index included recreation and senior centers and dog parks this year. Long Beach scored well above the national ParkScore average on these measures, boosting its overall ranking.

Credit: Long Beach's Shoreline Aquatic Park via Bobby Gibbons/L.A. Weekly Flickr pool

Credit: Long Beach's Shoreline Aquatic Park via Bobby Gibbons/L.A. Weekly Flickr pool

The big national winners are Minneapolis and St. Paul, which tied for the top spot, followed by Washington, D.C., San Francisco, New York and Portland, which also ended up in a tie.

Santa Ana was the lowest-scoring SoCal city. It came in 69th. (Fresno came in last.)

Adrian Benepe, senior vice president of the Trust for Public Land, says:

You can't have a great city without great parks. Parks provide places for children and adults to be physically active, and they serve as community meeting places where friendships are built and a sense of community is strengthened.

For L.A., greatness still awaits.

Send feedback and tips to the author. Follow Dennis Romero on Twitter at @dennisjromero. Follow L.A. Weekly News on Twitter at @laweeklynews.

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