For the fifth year in a row, Phoenix has been designated a "Playful City" because of its commitment to creating opportunities for kids to play throughout the city.

In 2007, a national nonprofit called KaBoom began the Playful Cities Program to identify cities that are committed to ensuring that kids have opportunities to play.

"Essentially, currently only one in five children in the U.S. live within walking distance of a park or a playground," said Mike Vietti, communications manager for KaBoom. "That's what KaBoom calls the play deficit. Children across the country don't have access to places to play.

"What KaBoom does is kind of battle this play deficit because KaBoom believes that all kids deserve to be active and healthy and that means all kids deserve to have a good place to play."

KaBoom asks cities to apply for the Playful Cities designation and each must meet five requirements: To create a local task force; map the state of play by creating an audit of all publicly assessable play areas; design an annual action plan that tries to create more opportunities for play; identify current spending on capital projects and the maintenance of play spaces; and to create and celebrate an annual Play Day.

"Phoenix as a whole, really since the program's inception in 2007, they've been a champion for the cause of play," Vietti said. "Overall, the city has steadfastly worked to increase play opportunities for children."

What impressed KaBoom the most was the way Phoenix works with local nonprofits to use city facilities for different projects and the popularity of Phoenix parks programs.

The summer programs at Pecos Community Park in Ahwatukee Foothills fill up quickly each year.

KaBoom was also impressed with the way the city tracks maintenance that needs to be done on different parks.

"They keep track of which parks need to be identified for improvement, which parks could use some tender love and care, which parks need to be updated," Vietti said. "Believe it or not, there are some cities out there that don't do that.

"What Phoenix has done is essentially created schedules and updated schedules for replacing things in parks and fixing parks and keeping parks updated and current so that, again, the overall goal is to make sure that children have access to a playground."

Phoenix has 146 playgrounds all maintained by the city, according to Cynthia Peters, parks and preserve administrator. They replace five to eight of those playgrounds each year.

Peters said the city has not been able to build as many playgrounds as they would like to, but that they are still doing a lot of renovations and replacements of existing parks.

"The city of Phoenix does want kids to be healthy and encourages them to play so we try to build playgrounds that help kids use their imagination and makes them want to get out there and run around" Peters said. "It encourages kids to not watch TV as much or just slip in a video game but to use their imagination and get out in a safe location."

This year, 151 cities and towns across the U.S. received the designation.

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