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National non-profit KaBOOM! is honoring Apache Junction with a Playful City USA designation for the second time. Playful City USA honors cities and towns across the country for putting the needs of families first so kids can learn, grow and develop important life skills. These communities are transforming ordinary places into playful spaces and using play as a solution to the challenges facing their residents.
The 2017 Playful City USA recognition includes 258 communities from Richmond, Virginia, to Richmond, Calif., that make it as easy as possible for kids to play. In total, these communities feature more than 14,000 safe and engaging playspaces that serve more than 4 million kids. Apache Junction is among only 17 cities and towns in the state of Arizona that received the designation.
“Because of the various partners in our community, like the Apache Junction Unified School District, the Superstition Fire and Medical District, the Superstition Area Land Trust and many more, we are able to ensure that kids and adults alike in our community get the balanced and active play they need to thrive,” said Parks and Recreation Director Liz Langenbach.
Community events, recreational facilities, parks, sports and aquatics programs, and kids programs are just a few of the opportunities for play in Apache Junction. The “Thank Goodness Its Friday (TGIF)” program is now in its second year as a successful alternative for families that have a four-day school schedule. The Parks and Recreation Department and the Apache Junction Public Library collaborated with many other agencies to put a positive, fun spin on this day and TGIF became the umbrella program for many of the activities that were created to provide a safe and enriching environment for our school-aged children on Fridays.
The newly created Youth Advisory Council completed their first year advising and implementing programs that make Apache Junction a great place for our youth. One of their first achievements was creating a process, presenting, and ultimately selecting the name of our new downtown park, Flatiron Community Park.
Frequently in the news this spring, Flatiron Community Park is a wonderful, newly constructed, investment in the downtown area that will attract residents and visitors alike to Apache Junction for concerts, movies in the park, festivals and more. Additionally, through extensive partnerships, a splash pad, restroom facility and low-water use landscape garden was added to the first phase of this park. All these items will allow residents of all ages to enjoy the outdoors and play.
“As with many of our fellow Playful Cities, happier, healthier, and more active residents and visitors bring economic vitality to the area,” Apache Junction Mayor Jeff Serdy said.
As cities are becoming hotbeds for innovation, communities across the country are creating inventive ways to attract and retain residents. Playful City USA honorees are taking bold action to ensure kids have great places to play – all with the ultimate goal of making play the easy choice for all kids, no matter where they live. In addition to the playground down the street, Playful City USA communities are turning grocery stores, vacant lots, crosswalks and sidewalks into opportunities for play.
“We are thrilled to recognize the City of Apache Junction for putting kids first,” said KaBOOM! CEO James Siegal. “The well-being of our communities starts with the well-being of our kids, and play is critical for them to thrive. It is our collective responsibility to ensure that all kids get the childhood they deserve filled with play.”
To see the full list of Playful City USA communities and to learn more about making play the easy choice for kids, visit kaboom.org/playfulcityusa. You can also take part in the conversation with leaders across the country using #PLAYceforkids on Twitter and Facebook.