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    Grand Rapids is once again a Playful City USA. KaBOOM!, in partnership with the Humana Foundation, bestowed the Playful City USA title on Michigan’s second largest city for the fifth consecutive year as it honors cities, towns and counties across the country for making their communities more playable.

    The Grand Rapids community has a strong focus on parks and play. Since approval of the park millage in November 2013, Grand Rapids is working diligently to make improvements to outdated and/or lacking park equipment and amenities. Improvements include: safety wood fiber playground surfacing, hazardous tree trimming, fire extinguishers installed at park buildings that were deficient, and drinking fountains. Improvements to basketball and tennis courts are underway at ten parks throughout the city. Infrastructure improvements at eight parks are also under construction. These improvements consist of water playground installation, new border/surfacing at playground areas, new playground equipment, drinking fountains, ramps for barrier-free access, benches, grills, and picnic shelter renovations.

    Working with non-profit organizations to continue and expand event programming in parks is another way that Grand Rapids is enhancing play opportunities. In partnership with Downtown Grand Rapids, Inc. the Parks Department is offering free outdoor fitness classes at various park locations. Outdoor games, such as Jenga and Connect Four, are available to play at Rosa Parks Circle on Thursdays from 11:30 am - 1:30 pm. In addition, Grand Rapids is partnering with Spectrum Health to offer family and recreation activities at Roosevelt Park. 

    "Grand Rapids is making great strides forward because of community support for parks and recreational programming", says David Marquardt, Director of Parks and Recreation. "The Department of Parks & Recreation looks forward to engaging with the community some more through a master plan update that will address the way we play while engaging all ages and park users." 

    Hopscotch sidewalks, structured recess programs, mandated neighborhood play spaces, citywide play days and mobile recreation vehicles are all ways in which these communities are appealing to residents, and attracting and retaining residents. 

    "Playability is crucial to the success of our future communities, and we are proud of the work these cities and leaders are doing to provide a better quality of life for all residents, and especially families," says KaBOOM! President, James Siegal. "Play provides a competitive advantage for cities looking to attract and retain residents. With these esteemed leaders, and our friends and partners across the country, we continue to prioritize play for all kids." 

    To learn more about these cities, see the full list of the 241 communities named 2015 Playful City USA honorees, or to gather more information on the Playful City USA program, visit www.playfulcityusa.org. We also encourage you to take part in the conversation on #playability with these thought leaders on Twitter and Facebook.