In a year of intensifying economic pressures and record budget cuts, why in the world would civic leaders care about making their cities more playful? Here, mayors and city officials from a few of this year's 118 Playful City USA communities weigh in on the vital importance of play for the health of their residents and neighborhoods:
Says Don Lewis, director of Tupelo Parks & Recreation in Mississippi, "Well I think the healthier Tupelo begins with getting people active. We have to get people active and the primary focus is to start at an early age."
“We’ve been cited as one of the more obese communities in the nation,” says Parks Deputy Director Perry Ehresman of Fort Wayne, Ind. “Obviously, as kids stay active and have opportunities to stay active, that will reduce the obesity in the community.”
City Manager Connie Green in Killeen, Tex. says, "This is another indicator of excellence in our parks and recreation programs, and I am very proud that Killeen is being recognized nationally for our commitment to providing an outstanding quality of life for our youth."
Emmy Sasala, chairwoman of the York, Pa. Bring On Play committee, tells us that the recognition is important to the committee for several reasons. "Our mission is to renovate a playground at a park each year. But we also want people to know that we are playmakers in the community. Hopefully as we continue to grow we're not just recognized as the group who builds the playgrounds, but also as the group who gets the community involved."
Parks and Recreation Director Donna Gaukler doesn’t think Missoula, Mont. would have attained Playful City status if it weren’t for its citizens: “We Missoulians prioritize healthy living each day by engaging in active fun…We believe wellness is holistic, and play is the avenue to a healthier community and economy, as well as healthier and happier children.”
Annapolis Mayor Joshua Cohen says Maryland's capital has been selected as a Playful City USA Community for the second year in a row. "Annapolis is privileged to have abundant, quality park space for our residents to enjoy. Under the direction of Recreation and Parks Director LeeAnn Plumer, the City has created play spaces for kids of all ages, be it a nature trail, a recreation center or playground. I commend my predecessor, Mayor Ellen Moyer, for her vision in spearheading many of these initiatives."
Mayor Bob Taylor is proud that Brentwood, Calif. is setting a good example for others. “Through the Playful City USA program, other communities across the country will now look to Brentwood as a role model,” he said. “These cities and towns will examine our best practices and look to replicate them in their communities. I take a tremendous amount of pride in knowing that what we’re doing here in Brentwood will improve the lives of not only our children, but children elsewhere as well.”
Do you live in a playful city? See if yours made the cut!