April 14, 2008

Playful City USA community Yuma, Ariz. featured in U.S. Mayor magazine

Year-Round, All-Ages Play Highlights Yuma's 'Playful City USA' Status

By Larry Nelson
Mayor, City of Yuma, Ariz.

U.S. Mayor Magazine - Apr. 7, 2008
Reprinted with permission

Yuma was recognized nationally in 2008 as a top place for children to play when it was named one of the 31 founding members of the Playful City USA initiative, sponsored by KaBOOM! But the impact is felt "from womb to tomb" and 365 days a year.

Yuma's participation in KaBOOM's Playful City USA initiative, which is a national recognition program that honors cities and towns across the nation for "creating an agenda for play," not only placed the city in elite company across the nation, but provided many other benefits as well. Those include improvements in planning and public participation and increasing awareness for Parks and Recreation and its role in how citizens play.

But perhaps most important is that this campaign allowed Yuma residents—and the world—to learn that the "we" in "We Play the Yuma Way" is everybody—from the very young to the very old. And the "way" is every day—365 days a year.

Yuma's a ‘Playful City' for everybody, all year round. Playing in Yuma starts at a very young age—virtually all ages can play in Yuma, from young kids to senior citizens: from the ‘tot lot' at our Stewart Vincent Wolfe Creative Playground and our recreation programs for toddlers all the way up to the seniors who run and walk on our paths and in our 5K/10K's.

Our involvement in activities like softball, Over the Line, volleyball and soccer, plus all the people that are running, walking and biking on our paths, includes participants of all ages—and they do it here, outside, 12 months out of the year, where you're lucky to get six good months in some places back east.

The creation of the Play task force allowed the City to create greater planning outcomes for future resources and the promotion of play in our community. Those community members, including myself, were key in creating the goals for Yuma's future play initiatives. The City of Yuma Parks and Recreation Department is well on its way to realizing many of the goals put forth in the plan: business leader survey, monthly play dates, and increased emphasis on safety and shade structures to be installed with future playgrounds.

In February of 2007, the City of Yuma, with the help of 8,000 volunteers, built a creative playground based from the ideas of 5,000 Yuma children. This 17,000-square-foot playground is the first of its kind in Arizona and serves as the flagship play space in our community. The Stewart Vincent Wolfe Creative Playground has been a model for public involvement and support for our Parks and Recreation Department. With the Playful City USA initiative we have been able to sustain public awareness and maintain momentum with our play and youth programs.

The spirit of that volunteer effort came alive again in the effort to promote Yuma's Playful City USA video contest entry, "We Play the Yuma Way." Competing news media, enthusiastic members of the public and other government agencies all contributed to the city's effort to get out the word and then get out the vote, and Yuma's video, with the second-highest vote tally, fared well considering the competition included major metropolitan areas such as Atlanta, San Francisco and East Cleveland.

The grant opportunities that have come as a result of the Playful City USA initiative have been very positive. Parks and Recreation learned a great deal about getting out the vote and how to achieve critical mass in the community about specific knowledge on a project. The department utilized many different methods to encourage the community to vote for our video grant application (see attached list). The City received $5,000 to promote its next Come out and Play Day on September 20, 2008. Yuma has also applied for a shade grant from the American Academy of Dermatology for our Stewart Vincent Wolfe Creative Playground.

The ongoing result is a Parks and Recreation team and community that are committed to promoting play, providing programs for youth, and renewed interest from the media that will serve to make a more inclusive community when it comes to play for all ages.

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