Kenneth Kutska

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Kutska's Korner, A Commentary

Executive Director of the International Playground Safety Institute, LLC of Bend Oregon since retiring from Wheaton Parks District, IL as Director of Parks and Planning | Past president of the NRPA | Chair of the ASTM F15.29 Subcommittee for performance requirements for public play equipment | Member of IPEMA’s Voice of Play Advisory Board | Member of US Play Coalition Planning Committee | Co-founder of the National Playground Safety Institute | NRPA Certified Playground Safety Inspector course instructor | Clemson University’s Playground Maintenance Technician course instructor | Author of Playground Safety Is No Accident. 

Ken Kutska

Greetings and welcome to my world of play. I am going to be a regular contributor to this electronic newsletter and I would like to talk about things that are going on around the world that impact those of us who are involved in the public play and play equipment industry. Whether you are a play area facility manager, an equipment or surfacing manufacturer, a play researcher or educator, or just a parent or caregiver who is interested in your child’s development you have come to the right place. I want to discuss things that interest you. I need you to take a moment and send an email with your questions. I would like to hear about any new innovative ideas or emerging trends in the industry. Tell me your concerns or for that matter just about anything related to the world of play.

First I would like to introduce myself so you get a better idea of my experience and background which has influenced my point of view on this industry. Since retiring from the Wheaton Illinois Park District in 2006 I have been an independent consultant working in many areas of public safety and specializing in all aspects of play spaces for children. I have been a volunteer on many committees and for various organizations within the play and playground industry. I am the Executive Director of the International Playground Safety Institute, LLC and President of Children and Recreation Environments, Inc. CRE, Inc distributing special surfacing system adhesives, non-toxic antimicrobial cleaners for use in children’s play areas.

I have been an active member of the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA) throughout my professional life serving on several of their Boards and Committees including President in 1995.

I cofounded the NRPA National Playground Safety Institute who created the Certified Playground Safety Inspector Course and Exam Program, which has certified more than 50,000 inspectors. I have been a CPSI Course Certified Instructor since 1994. I was an instructor for the NRPA and U. S. Access Board’s training program for interpreting the ADA/ABA Accessibility Guidelines for public playgrounds and currently instruct Clemson University’s Maintaining Child’s Play training course for playground maintenance technicians.

I am a member of the American Academy of Park and Recreation Administrators (AAPRA), International Play Equipment Manufacturers Association’s (IPEMA) Voice of Play, member of several subcommittees of the ASTM International (ASTM) since 1989 and am Chair of the F15.29 Subcommittee on safety performance requirements for play equipment for public use.

It was at this time during my tenure as Director of Parks and Planning, that I developed an operations manual for the management of our playground facilities. This program became the template for an expanded version, Playground Safety Is No Accident:  Developing A Public Playground Safety And Maintenance Program, which is now in its fifth revision. I also co-authored a book Guide to Playground Planning , published by the Illinois Park and Recreation Association in 1995, to help small communities plan public play spaces.

In 2005 I went to Sri Lanka as part of a U.S. Aid Clinton-Bush Tsunami Relief effort to create play opportunities for the Sri Lankan youth. Since I took over IPSI in 2008 I conduct Certified Playground Safety Inspector Course training opportunities throughout the world on behalf of the NRPA.

After retiring from Wheaton Park District in 2006 the next chapter of my career began. Retirement does not translate to only long walks with the dog, golfing, kayaking, yard work, and other home improvement projects. Yes these are all part of my current lifestyle but retirement opens other doors of opportunity. I had the opportunity to take on the IPSI mission and worked towards expanding training opportunities to various international venues on behalf of the Department of Defense in Europe and Japan. IPSI is also working with other government and non-government agencies to regularly conduct training in Singapore, Hong Kong, and now Malaysia.

In 2008 I brought the idea of a national summit on the value of play to some colleagues at Clemson University in South Carolina. The timing was perfect for a national summit as the benefits of free play had once again become part of the national dialog for a prescriptive cure for the many health issues related to an inactive youth population. The benefits from free play were being recognized by the health profession, educators, and researchers as providing the opportunities necessary to turn the tide on childhood obesity, Type-2 diabetes, claims of over medicating our children, and other societal concerns brought about in part because of a lack of or loss of play opportunities for children and adults. I continue as a member of the planning committee which has now evolved into the US Play Coalition.

I will continue to work towards furthering the national and international dialog on the importance of free play. Our collective efforts need to go beyond a public awareness campaign. We need to do so much more than creating more play facilities. It is always fun and challenging to build more play opportunities, unfortunately too many of us stop our efforts at the ribbon cutting. This is the point where our work really begins. We have to do better when it comes to the ongoing commitment to our public play areas. Close to home public recreation facilities become more important and the public needs to be assured these facilities are a safe place for our children. I see a lot of opportunity for improvement when it comes to the maintenance and repair of our public play environments. My ongoing New Year’s resolution is for every municipality, school, childcare facility, and public play area owner/operator to have and support at least one trained and certified staff member responsible for every public playground who is empowered to be proactive in managing these valuable public facilities. This website is a good resource to help us all realize this objective.

Drop us a line. Help me expand my knowledge. It is time we all get out of our Korner.