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Riverdale named best playful city for youth

Photo by Jeylin White                               
These will be the bathroom facilities at The City of Riverdale’s Regional Park. Phase one of the multi-million dollar park is expected to be completed by August. The City recently earned recognition from national non-profit KaBOOM as one of 213 recognized as 2012 Playful City USA communities for their efforts to increase play opportunities for children.

Photo by Jeylin White These will be the bathroom facilities at The City of Riverdale’s Regional Park. Phase one of the multi-million dollar park is expected to be completed by August. The City recently earned recognition from national non-profit KaBOOM as one of 213 recognized as 2012 Playful City USA communities for their efforts to increase play opportunities for children.

The City of Riverdale has earned recognition from national non-profit KaBOOM, as a 2012 Playful City USA community for its efforts to increase play opportunities for children.

“This is a great honor,” Riverdale Mayor Evelyn Wynn Dixon. “It shows that we are improving as a city and we have good track record with working well with youth.”

Riverdale was one of 213 cities and towns from across the United States, who also made the list. In Henry County, Hampton, McDonough and Locust Grove also made the list.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, play is critical to a child’s healthy brain development. It allows children to use their creativity while simultaneously developing imagination, dexterity and physical, cognitive and emotional strength. However, today’s children spend less time playing outside than any previous generation in part because only 1-in-5 live within walking distance of a park or playground. The resulting play deficit is having profound consequences for kids physically, socially and academically.

Playful City USA is a national program advocating for local policies that increase play opportunities for children and is a key platform in combating the play deficit.

“KaBOOM!, the national non-profit organization dedicated to saving play, created Playful City USA in 2007 to help local governments address the play deficit,” said Riverdale City Council Member Kenny Ruffin. “It is through mayors, city council members, parks and recreation departments, school districts and community leaders that the program succeeds in benefiting children.”

With the city’s multi-million dollar, regional park under construction on Wilson Road, Iris Jessie, city manager, said this recognition has allowed them to apply for a $20,000 playground construction grant, offered through the organization.

“If we are awarded the grant, this will allow us to purchase the playground equipment for the new park,” said Jessie. She added that the city has plans on constructing to separate playgrounds, one that will be for the younger youth, and one for the older youth.

“Some of the most innovative concepts and cost-effective programs are being developed in Playful City USA communities,” says Darell Hammond, Founder and CEO of KaBOOM and author of The New York Times Best Seller KaBOOM!: How One Man Built a Movement to Save Play. “Cities like Riverdale are key allies in the fight to combat the play deficit and serve as outstanding role models for government and community leaders across the country.”

Jessie said phase one of the park should be complete by August and will include: a new baseball field, concession space and restrooms, a football/multipurpose field, pavilions, a children's playground, and picnic areas. Plans for the second phase, she said, include: a "Sports Complex" consisting of a 300-foot-wide baseball field with removable sports fencing, walking trails, a concession building with restrooms, a community building, and more parking.