Seek Shelter

There was a time when sunburns and peeling skin were as much a part of summer for kids as bare feet and cutoffs. Accordingly, parents thought it was healthier for kids to have some color than pale faces.

An example of a permanent shade structure beside tennis courts. Photo courtesy of Fast-Dry Courts

Much has changed in the way we view the sun, and the way we protect ourselves from it. These days, sunscreen is routine (and even waterproof), and sports clothing carries sun-protection factor ratings.

And while much activity still occurs outdoors, those who are playing outside or just relaxing don’t mind being protected from burning (or at least from overexposure).

Fortunately, there are still simple shade solutions, such as beach umbrellas, but there are also many newer and more easily maintained options.

Have It Made in the Shade, On Your Budget

Various options exist to create shade. They may be permanent (like gazebos, pergolas, picnic shelters, and more), or temporary (like pop-up tents). There are shelters made with metal or wood posts and awnings, tension-supported structures, metal shelters, and those made of regular building materials like brick and wood.

Structures may be as expensive as a custom-made shelter in camp colors that fits over a specific area, or as low-tech as a table with an umbrella purchased at a big-box store.

Shop carefully and wisely. A shelter that is too cheaply made may not hold up for more than one season. Wind, rain, sunlight, and other factors can contribute to early wear and tear. Investigate warranties and read any consumer reviews regarding product performance.

Location, Location, Location

Remember that any place people gather, shade should be available. Of course, if an area is heavily wooded, the need for shade structures may be greatly decreased; however, shelters also come in handy in the event of rain.

Some areas where shade structures should be considered are:

• Picnic areas

• Playgrounds

• Swimming pools or splash pads

• Athletic facilities (tennis courts, volleyball courts, sports fields, running tracks, and others)

• Outside meal halls or community areas

• Various points along walking paths

• Areas outside cabins or lodges

• Areas outside any buildings, such as offices for health professionals or guidance counselors, where campers might have to wait for an appointment.

Placement of shelters is essential, and for safety’s sake, a few quick considerations should be kept in mind. If, for example, shade shelters are placed near a playground, they should be constructed in a way that allows counselors or supervisors to see and hear children at all times.

However, benches or shade shelters located outside offices for health professionals or guidance counselors should be placed far enough from the building to ensure the privacy of those within.

Remember that kids often get excited around facilities like swimming pools, and will run back and forth (despite lifeguards’ repeated warnings not to do so). Make sure shade shelters are set far enough back so that children don’t accidentally run into them.

If a shade shelter is placed near a sports facility, its presence must not interfere with play, or cause any danger to players. Although many sports areas, including but not limited to tennis courts, volleyball courts, sports fields, running tracks, and more have areas bounded by playing lines, athletes who are in the midst of a game often overrun the area; therefore, it is essential never to place shade structures (nor any other equipment) too close to the playing area.

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