Let's start with the worst. My criteria is simple. Did they suck? Am I still bitter?
If I had to draw a lesson from our bad parks, it's this: Parks with "Friends of..." groups get taken care of a lot better than parks without them. I presume this is because the "Friends of..." groups are, by definition, groups of people who feel passionately about their parks, and they'll harass the parks department and their council members if anything is amiss. If you have a park in your neighborhood, you should consider even an informal "Friends of..." group that watches the park and makes phone calls when needed.
If you can't swing a "Friends of..." group, at least don't be embarrassed to call or write your councilperson when something is amiss.
Let's look back on these embarrassments to the city:
1. Memorial Park: It's only provisionally on the list, because it could secretly be great. Memorial Park is the only park I was never able to find, even though I had a street address and Google Maps. So, yes, Memorial Park, you suck for not existing and I am still bitter.
2. Fred Douglas Park. Because Metro was refusing to mow it, I got poison ivy. I heard later that their excuse was that they were waiting for flood money to be able to refurbish it, though it remains to me unclear how a lack of money prevents you from mowing half the park. Did they run out of money halfway through mowing? If any East Nashville toddlers go missing, check the high grass at this park.
3. Boyd-Taylor Park. This was the first park where I felt like not always having another person with me while reviewing was a bad idea. (Coleman Park was when my family started insisting I always go with another person, though i didn't always listen. That's another story, though.) And who can forget the garbage tea that flows through the middle of Boyd-Taylor where any little kid can play in it? Lovely.
4. Providence Park. You know when you park by a sign that says "Keep Out," you're probably in for a terrible time. I still can't believe folks actually let their names be associated with that park. I'm honestly surprised no one has been hurt or killed there yet.
5. Oakwood Park. A place I affectionately call "Nashville's hemorrhoid." Of the five worst, this one probably makes me the most upset, because the bones of a really awesome park are there. It should be a destination for the whole city — the way Shelby Bottoms, Centennial and the Warners are. Instead, it's not a place you'd go or let your children go unless you had no other options.