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Auburn makes top 5 of America's 'most playful cities'

Jovahn
Jovahn 'JoJo' Munson, 2, enjoys the slide at Auburn's Discovery Playground at Les Gove Park on a sun-splashed Friday afternoon
— image credit: Robert Whale/Auburn Reporter

Jovahn "JoJo" Munson, all of 2, couldn't get enough of the slide at Auburn's Discovery Playground at Les Gove Park Friday afternoon, clambering up and scooting down, up and down, a grin of sheer delight pasted on his face.

"Yeah!" said JoJo, legs pumping for another go at the slide. "Yeah!"

His grandparents watched, marveling at the endurance packed into those pint-sized legs.

"I really like this," grandma Tammie Anderson said of the playground. "My younger sisters have little kids, and I always hear them talking about bringing the little kids to the park and the spray park over there. So when got to spend some time with him today, we got some lunch and brought it here."

Jovahn knows what fun is, but the knowledge that he was having it in one of the best five American cities for kids to play in, and in a playground that helped Auburn earn the distinction, seemed to pass right over him in his dogged determination to keep on having it.

KaBOOM!, a national non-profit dedicated to building and renovating playgrounds, and the USA Weekend magazine recently drew up the list of the big five. Auburn shares the "playful city distinction" with some big cities: Columbus, Ohio, Hartford, Conn., San Francisco, Calif. and Orlando, Fla.

Auburn can boast of 90 public play spaces and numerous parks, among them the Les Gove Community Campus and the 32,000-square-foot Discovery Playground. The playground opened in June 2010, much to the delight of thousands of children. It features accessible surfacing, play opportunities that support all levels of development, elevated sand tables, water and auditory elements, cozy spots to gather, areas to swing, spin, balance, roll and play. Tactile surfaces and a sensory garden include an integrated system of spaces devoted to the five senses.

USA Weekend let readers know that the city also offers a water park, a climbing wall, bocce courts and a disc golf course. Game Farm Park hosts the annual Petpalooza, a yearly pet festival, which more than 14,000 people and their critters make a point of attending every year.

You can bet that every face at the Auburn Parks, Arts and Recreation Department wore a big smile this week.

"What's it like to have Auburn featured as one of five cities in a publication that goes to 49.5 million readers in 800 newspapers?" asked Daryl Faber, director of Auburn Parks, Arts and Recreation? "It's great. When you're a parks and recreation department and you're recognized by a national publication for having great parks and playgrounds and programs, it's just great.

"We're a three-time recipient of Playground Cities USA, and so this kind of came out of that. I think there were maybe 100 cities nationwide they were looking at," Faber said. "We definitely have some good things going on, including the Discovery Playground, which has been extremely popular this summer. It was busy every day, and now that the kids are back in school, there's tons of the two-to-five-year old set out there every day having fun."

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