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The Benefits of Being a Playful City USA

By Tucson (AZ) Mayor Robert E. Walkup
May 11, 2009


The Tucson region is a serene desert playground that offers all kinds of recreational possibilities. With our famed mild climate and about 350 sunny days a year, our outdoors is always open.

Tucson’s crisp high-desert air, sunny climate, and exceptional air quality make Tucson the picture of health and a healthy lifestyle. The intriguing landscape of the desert gives way to majestic mountains in every direction, making Tucson a paradise for anyone who loves the outdoors. Hiking, biking, and exploring are favorite Tucson activities.

No matter what you love to do in the great outdoors, Tucson is the place to do it. From pleasant urban walks to rugged canyon hikes we have countless spectacular trails for every level. Or you can spend the day riding a horse on a mountain trail, golfing on one of our world-renowned courses or playing in one of our 120- parks.

Tucson is truly a destination for play, and in 2007 we were honored to submit our application to be recognized as a Playful City USA by KaBOOM!. The application process allowed us to compile a detailed inventory of our play spaces and helped to us to recognize gaps in our system. From this, we were able to create a master plan and prioritize current and future projects to best meet the needs of our community. The creation of the Playful City USA taskforce helped to focus our efforts and increase and improve our collaborative efforts.

As a region with a goal of a play space within walking distance of every child, we sought new partnerships and innovative ways to increase our play spaces. One of our first partnerships came from strong support from one of our council members, Rodney Glassman, who helped to forge an agreement with one of our local school districts to open schoolyards during out-of-school time. The agreement allowed the school yards to become additional play space and in exchange the city provided maintenance during the out-of-school time.

The task force then began looking at policies that would increase play spaces in new developments. They worked with the Development Services Department and helped to change the requirements for new developments being built within the city limits. Builders must now provide functional recreational space based on the size and density of the development and an outside architect works directly with the developers to ensure that the play space meets specific guidelines designed by the department.

The process of becoming a Playful City USA has been of great benefit to Tucson and has helped us strive to live up to the title. Every decision we make in planning, developing, revitalizing and building has the mission of being named a Playful City USA as guidance. Even though we are all facing difficult times with respect to the economy, play, parks and recreation and Playful City USA are bright spots that we can look to for inspiration.

We love to play here in our desert oasis and as our Tucson Metropolitan Convention and Visitors Bureau says, “Whether it’s rock scrambling, gold panning, or cave-crawling you yearn for, Tucson can scratch that adventurous itch — and more.”

We consider Tucson the ultimate Playful City USA and welcome you to come play with us.