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District of Columbia named as finalist in Playful City USA initiative

District of Columbia is recognized for outstanding playground initiative
District of Columbia is recognized for outstanding playground initiative
Photo by Professor Metze

The District of Columbia was named recently as a finalist for the 2014 Playful City USA initiative, along with more than 200 cities around the country. Mayor Vincent Gray has opened the largest number of new and newly renovated playgrounds for children in District of Columbia history.

"The concept of playability, the extent to which cities make it easy for children to have a balance of active play they need to thrive, is a movement taking shape in communities across America, and I'm proud that the District is working to make our city more playable. I'm pleased that our PlayDC: Playground Improvement Initiative and our PlayDC Master Plan are receiving the recognition they so richly deserve," Gray said.

Playful City USA, a KaBOOM! advocacy initiative, is an eight-year-old national recognition program, sponsored by the Humana Foundation, honoring cities and towns that champion efforts to make play a priority through policy initiatives, infrastructural investments and innovative programming. The program strives to recognize communities that demonstrate commitment to ensuring all children get the balance of active play they need to thrive. Washington, DC, will be recognized along with Chicago, Ill.; Nashville, Tenn.; Austin, Texas; Providence, R.I.; San Francisco, Calif.; New York City, N.Y. and 205 others. KaBOOM! is the national nonprofit dedicated to the goal of ensuring that all children, particularly the 16 million American children living in poverty, get the active play they need to become healthy and successful adults.

Since 2012, the DC Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR), along with the Department of General Services, has led the multi-year, citywide effort to renovate and improve 32 play spaces under the PlayDC: Playground Improvement Initiative, as part of Mayor Gray’s One City Action Plan and the Vision for a Sustainable DC, designed to strengthen the District's commitment to using world-class, innovative practices to improve how residents and visitors work, live and play. In 2013, Gray added eight more play spaces to the project.

The Play DC Master Plan is an ambitious and strategic visionary framework for advancing the District’s parks-and-recreation resources. For more than a year, DPR and the Office of Planning worked on the plan, a 15-year strategy that lays out a roadmap for the District’s parks-and-recreation system to realize its highest levels of excellence, efficiency and effectiveness. Building on the successes of the playground transformations for the last two years, the master plan is the District’s first-ever comprehensive framework for the city’s parks-and-recreation system as a whole.

The benefits of obtaining the Playful City USA designation include the opportunity to apply for grants and playground builds offered by KaBOOM! that support targeted policies, programs, and infrastructure for DC, as well as the other communities that are recognized; increased stature and competitive advantage for state and national grant opportunities; and the chance to apply to attend this year’s 2014 Playful City USA Leaders' Summit held in Chicago as leaders in the burgeoning Playability Movement.