Starkville earned its fourth-straight Playful City USA designation this year as it and four other Mississippi cities were recognized for their investments in public play spaces for children.

Only 241 cities and towns across the U.S. were recognized by KaBOOM!, a non-profit dedicated to bringing active play to children, and The Humana Foundation for underscoring the importance of outdoor activity for youth.

This year’s designation marks the fifth time Starkville has been named, Amory, Hernando, Okolona and Senatobia also received recognitions.

“This is one of those designations we chase … that is a barometer that shows we are a community that takes seriously the task of having quality play spaces,” said Mayor Parker Wiseman.

Besides showing availability and growth with its play spaces, cities earning the designation also have to demonstrate ability to connect facilities with public areas.

The mayor recognized Starkville Parks and Recreation Director Herman Peters Tuesday as the driving force behind this year’s Playful City USA application, saying Peters singlehandedly “did the legwork himself.”

“Our spaces are for all ages, all abilities and all incomes,” Peters said.

Even with the city’s takeover of SPR, the department continues to add new play structures at its locations. Peters said new playground equipment for McKee Park should arrive this month and will be installed at a later date.

Public buy-in helped bring the project to fruition, he said, as the Starkville Junior Auxiliary pitched in financially.

Peters said he hopes the city will continue to show its willingness to invest in its parks system with a new play structure and overall facelift for McKee Park.

“It’s centrally located for everyone,” he said. “That’s where we need to turn our attention.”

Carl Smith covers Starkville and Oktibbeha County for The Dispatch.

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