Good Intentions

If your community is like most, you may either be contacted or have already been contacted by a private community/citizens group about a new playground project that the members think is needed or that they want. How you handle this opportunity is critically important to how successful the venture will be.

Community assistance can create wonderful play spaces - or diplomatic challenges.

First, let’s assume that everyone is on board with the need for a new or updated playground. Fast-forward to the end of the process–who is the owner? You are! Who carries the responsibility to maintain the equipment and protective surfacing, inspect it, and make any necessary repairs? You do! And who is responsible for the legal liability if any injuries occur on the equipment? You are!

The following are seven steps to make installing a playground a success:

1. Education

Everyone needs to understand that there are national standards regarding a safe playground environment, and many states have adopted these standards as law. The standards are from the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM)–ASTM F-1487-07, Standard Consumer Safety Performance Specification for Playground Equipment for Public Use; and the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission–Public Playground Safety Handbook (CPSC Publication #325). When selecting playground equipment, make sure it meets these standards. One way to verify this when shopping different manufacturers and vendors is to ask if the equipment is IPEMA-certified. International Play Equipment Manufacturers Association (IPEMA) is an organization that ensures quality and safety for all playground equipment. It provides a Third-Party Certification Service whereby a designated independent laboratory validates a participant’s certification of conformance to ASTM F-1487, Standard Consumer Safety Performance Specification for Playground Equipment for Public Use, except section 7.1.1, 10 and 12.6.1. Should you ask for the certification in writing? Most definitely, and keep it on file!

2. Legal ownership

Once the project is completed, the parks and recreation department is the owner. Because of this, you (the entity) have to be responsible for procurement, installation and continued maintenance and repair of the playground. This may mean that the private community group has to turn over any funds for the project to you, and the department now has total responsibility for the project. Some will not like this and will inevitably voice opposition. That is OK, but they need to remember that each party has certain responsibilities, and this part of the project belongs to the parks and recreation department. How these funds are earmarked is up to the department, the fiscal officer and perhaps any state auditor’s guidelines. It has been my experience that many people in the general public simply don’t realize the “hoops” government agencies have to jump through in comparison to the private sector, so this may be a learning curve for a private community group.

3. Site selection

This is a key element because several factors come into play. Traffic patterns–both vehicular and pedestrian–around the playground have to be considered and evaluated. Is there sufficient room for the equipment and the required use zones? How is the drainage on the proposed site? Are there any trees nearby? If so, remember that a minimum of 84 inches (7 feet) of clearance above the equipment and/or use area (i.e., swing path of a swing set) must be maintained. How close is the site to athletic fields? Can foul balls from a baseball or softball field reach the playground? What about a golf driving range in the area? Many playground vendors will more than likely help with this process and even provide scaled drawings and site plans as part of their proposals. Remember, don’t be afraid to ask questions, and don’t be afraid to think outside the box.

Page 1 of 2 | Next page

Related posts:

  1. A Place By The Same Name
  2. Building Community
  3. Pride And Pirate Ships
  4. Minnesota Playground Honored
  5. Playground Contest
  • Columns
  • Departments