More kids will be playing in the shade at the Durango Community Recreation Center after community members raised money for a canopy.
Carl Curtiss raised $23,000 through individual donations for the $40,000 canopy that will be installed this year, Parks and Recreation Director Cathy Metz said. The city will pay the additional $17,000 for the shade structure, which will be similar to the structure over the amphitheater at the rec center.
The rec center playground was selected for the shade structure because it is one of the busiest in the park system.
Curtiss, a retired cardiologist who lives in Hermosa, started thinking about the need for shade at a park with his grandchildren in Denver three years ago on a mid-summer day that was too hot for them to play on the equipment. Later in Phoenix, he noticed many of the playgrounds had permanent shade structures. When he started researching the structures and their cost, he was impressed by how they can help prevent skin cancer by reducing sun exposure and his priorities changed.
“It became more important to consider it as a preventive for skin cancer in adults, given its prevalence,” he said.
He found that a canopy can block 94 percent of percent of ultraviolet rays and help prevent the sunburns that increase their risk of skin cancer later in life.
About 5 million people are treated for skin cancer each year and the rate of skin cancer continues to increase, according the U.S. surgeon general.
Curtiss and several members of his family, including his parents and his sister, are among those who have been treated for skin cancer.
Curtiss started raising money for the project at the end of last year, and he was struck by the generosity of people in Durango, especially because for being a small town.
“For no bigger than it is, the giving is just amazing. People are very supportive,” he said.
He would like to see more shade structures introduced in the Durango park system, but he believes that wearing sunscreen and protective clothing, such as hats and long sleeves, is more important when it comes to skin cancer prevention.
As for his grandchildren, they live in Denver, but he expects they will play under the new canopy when they come to visit.