Safety Gear — Fences & Lights

Lights Please

Proper lighting in the right places is an extremely important element for the safety and enjoyment of your park patrons. Again, thought should be given to the installation of lighting. It’s expensive to install and increasingly expensive to operate. You don’t have to light up a place like high noon to get the safety and enjoyment you want for your customers.

The most expensive lighting component of a park will be the lighting of your outdoor sports fields. It’s very important to design these facilities with care and include any residential neighbors as soon as possible in the park design. I know from bitter experience that NIMBY (not in my backyard) neighbors can make park planning a nightmare. It is much better to get this out front and to deal with it early.

If the neighbors stop your field lighting project through their political action it will have the effect of cutting the useful playing time on the field roughly in half. While this is disappointing for you and staff, it is in my opinion, not a political hill worth dying for. Therefore deal with it out front and move on.

That said, there are some basics to good field lighting:

Be a good neighbor to any residential communities close by. Place your lights at the proper mounting height for the size of the playing field.

Aim them properly.

If funds are available, and try to stretch your dollars for this, employ spill glare control technology in your field lighting system.

Buffer the field fencing at least 50 feet from the closest residential property line.

Design the lighting with remote ballasts.

Wire each light pole underground.

No exposed wire on light cross arms

In addition to the above some other considerations for park lighting could be:

If you don’t have access to a bucket truck to service your field lights consider specifying climbing steps on the light poles.

Check the lighting levels on the playing field after initial installation to ensure that they meet the design standards of the firm doing the engineering. A simple photo light meter can accomplish this.

Be budgeted to re-lamp each field after three years of use. Most specs call for a re-lamp after five years. The light fall-off is such that we find that three years is best for safety of play.

Again, be a good neighbor by ensuring that you turn off the field lights on time, every time. If your park is in a residential area and you don’t do this you will hear about it and so will the boss.

You may wish to control your field lights remotely and monitor the areas for rain or other inclement weather. If there is a rain-out, turn off the lights. The neighbors will really get mad if this happens repeatedly. Remember you are paying for the energy cost of these lights. If you are a government agency, those residents know very well that they are paying for those blazing lights with their tax dollars.

If you turn off the field lights remotely, design your light system to provide enough light to safely guide players and spectators out of the park and into the parking lots.

Finally do a light check of your parks that are open after dark. Do it in cooperation with your local law enforcement agency and make the necessary light adjustments or additions that will make you facility safer after dark.

Lighting and fencing can be a huge investment in any comprehensive park design. With thought, planning and the involvement of the community you can ensure the best possible use of these valuable resources.

William Potter is the parks and recreation division manager for Orange County Parks, Florida. He can be reached at

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