Step IV Of Getting A New Playground
In my travels, I often talk with people who have recently purchased a new playground and are confused as to their responsibility in maintaining their play equipment and play area. Sometimes I'm told they bought "maintenance-free equipment" and therefore don't feel regular checking of the equipment and play area is necessary. Maintenance of a play area means more than tightening loose bolts or replacing worn parts. If you were ever to watch your play area and record each child who played there and how long they stayed at the play area you would find that there are a lot of "child hours" (my term for time spent on a playground) put into the playground. It stands to reason that your house would be a disaster zone if those "child hours" were spent in your recreation room or backyard. It would require some cleanup and possible repairs. The same goes for a playground, hundreds of "child hours" on a playground results in a need for maintenance.
Do not buy into the line that your playground is maintenance free. Even the best equipment requires other types of maintenance besides the tightening of bolts or repairing and replacement of broken parts. At a minimum you should visually check your play area once a week. Proper protocol would be at least a visual check every day. Besides damage to parts, there are things to look for every day that pose dangerous or hazardous situations. What about the people who use the equipment for a place to drink alcohol and discard bottles or cans or other party debris? They may cause problems in themselves.
It is also common to find sex and drug paraphernalia or stolen articles that have been ruined and discarded Graffiti should be watched for and removed. Animal and insect remains of all kinds should be removed. Watch for nests and hives appearing. This type of maintenance requires day-to-day supervision of the equipment.
Owners of the play equipment should also spend adequate time and energy into educating the users of the equipment of their responsibilities to help maintain a safe, clean area of play. Child supervisors, parents, and children need to recognize that, as public structures, playgrounds are for the use of al I. Users should be taught to help patrol for litter damage, vandalism, worn parts or other problems. Teach them to help the entity act responsibly concerning the play area. Teach them how and where to report concerns or problems that should be attended to by the owner. Encourage users to be proactive during their use of the equipment.
Set a schedule and stick to it. If there are no problems today, do not assume that means there will not be any problems tomorrow. Playground maintenance is about safety and repairing equipment, yes. But it also includes cleanliness and play area cosmetics. A total maintenance effort will lengthen the life of the equipment and will help keep the area safe for the children using it.