LBWA–Freeze Frame

snow—sometimes it’s been the end of December before we’ve seen any measurable snow,” he notes, adding that the springs often stay colder longer. This April a record 54 inches of snow was recorded, and the weekend before Memorial Day was a 20-inch snow event, with frost warnings in June!

“In the southern part of the state, it was 60 degrees and people were mowing their lawns, and up here we were wondering if we’d be able to open our facilities,” he declares.

In other areas, such as the southeastern states, fall may linger well into November, December, or even later.   Sometimes in these areas, other than a few cold days, winter never really seems to hit.

“Come January, our winterization process is to tell people to wear a coat,” jokes Phil Gaines, Director of South Carolina State Parks. “Seriously, along the coast we do very little winterization in the classic sense compared to what they do in northern states. We may close some facilities or areas in December, January, or February because they’re not used as much, and we do minimal winterization, such as simply cutting water off.”

Gaines notes that further north in the state, winterization might include draining water lines and adding antifreeze, but “the biggest challenge in the South is often dealing with dramatic weather fluctuations.” He notes it can be 80 degrees in February, or, as happened this spring, it was still in the 40s at night in May. “The uncertainty makes it challenging to get facilities opened quickly when people want to use them,” Gaines says.

The greatest chore for people living in “transitional” areas, where winter hides around the corner waiting to attack the unprepared maintenance pros, is anticipating when cold weather will start and

Water fountains in open-sided pavilions may be more exposed to the elements than enclosed facilities. Additional winterizing tasks may include disconnecting electrical outlets and protecting picnic amenities.  © Can Stock Photo Inc. / sbonk

Water fountains in open-sided pavilions may be more exposed to the elements than enclosed facilities. Additional winterizing tasks may include disconnecting electrical outlets and protecting picnic amenities.

© Can Stock Photo Inc. / sbonk

end. Patrons generally want facilities open for use long after the calendar indicates it’s time to prepare them for winter. “People expect the facilities to be open and ready for use, especially on the coast,” says Gaines.

There are many types of facilities to prepare for winter, and some are more challenging than others—such as public restrooms, gazebos, pavilions, and shade structures.

Public Restrooms

Public restrooms probably pose the greatest challenge because, well, when you gotta’ go, you gotta’ go; families using parks for several hours at a time, whether playing, eating, or drinking, need a fully functional restroom.

Well-designed and reasonably budgeted public restrooms normally are heated and cooled to accommodate changes in weather, and are used often. However, when budgets are tight, such amenities are frequently either value-engineered out of the design or not maintained properly.

Uncooled public restrooms that aren’t cleaned frequently can become acrid, but generally won’t cause maintenance issues, although they will inevitably be a source of justifiable complaints. However, unheated restrooms are only a burst pipe away if they aren’t winterized before a freeze.

In many instances, water pipes going into the facilities are not insulated, making them susceptible to freezing.  They may also be either in the slab or above the ceiling, making a break more difficult to find and fix, or creating more damage if the pipes do burst.

Pavilions And Gazebos

Open-sided pavilions or gazebos may also have water, generally for fountains, which can be even more exposed to the elements than enclosed facilities. Other winterizing tasks may be necessary, such as ensuring electrical outlets are disconnected or barbeque and picnic facilities are protected. These items can often be overlooked in the heat of predicting the first freeze.

Shade Structures

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