Knoxville has been designated as a 2016 Playful City USA community by KaBOOM!, a national non-profit that provides grants to build playgrounds in underserved communities throughout the country. (Three KaBOOM! playgrounds have been built in Knoxville to date.)
Celebrating its 10th anniversary, the national recognition program honors cities and towns across the country for making their communities more playable and inducted 30 new cities this year, including Knoxville.
“Knoxville has remarkable natural resources that make it easy for us to promote play,” said Mayor Madeline Rogero. “We’ve been fortunate to have numerous partners who share our commitment to invest in our youth’s health. These—and many other favoring factors in our city—have positioned us to take great strides in making childhood an adventurous and active experience for kids.”
Knoxville has recently received other top national accolades for offering play opportunities to its youth. The City of Knoxville and Knox County are both ranked No. 1 in the nation by the National League of Cities in First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! Cities, Towns and Counties initiative, which strives to fight childhood obesity.
Recently, both local governments were extended an invitation to join the prestigious Let’s Move! All Stars initiative, which takes a step toward expanding infrastructure such as bike lanes and slow zones to increase access to play spaces.
In the last four years, the City of Knoxville and its partners have expanded the focus on outdoor play by opening the Outdoor Knoxville Adventure Center, preserving the 1,000-acre Urban Wilderness (with 40-plus miles of trails), offering new and creative play opportunities such as the Inskip Park youth disc golf course and the West Hills Pickleball Complex, contracting with companies to provide rentals for paddling on the Tennessee River and Mead’s Quarry, opening the Beardsley Farm Urban Agriculture Community Education Center, and collaborating on events such as the Let’s Move! Event or the Open Streets event.
At the same time, the City continues to increase and improve more traditional forms of play, such as play structures.
In 2015 alone, the City opened three brand new playgrounds, including the fully accessible Hank Rapeé Playground in Lakeshore Park, the KaBOOM! playground adjacent to The Muse in Chilhowee Park, and the playground at Dr. E.V. Davidson Community Center.
Communities across the country are creating innovative ways to bring back play and attract residents through family friendly activities.
“We are thrilled to recognize these communities that have invested their time and efforts to put kids first,” said KaBOOM! CEO James Siegal. “Balanced and active play is crucial to the well-being of kids and the communities that they thrive in. By integrating play into cities, the leaders of Playful Cities USA are working to attract and retain the thousands of families that want homes in close proximity to safe places to play.”
To learn more about these cities, see the full list of the 257 communities named 2016 Playful City USA honorees, or to gather more information on the Playful City USA program, visit www.playfulcityusa.org. Families are also encouraged to take part in the conversation on #playability with Playful City USA thought leaders on Twitter and Facebook.