Let it snow! Your playground is ready...
Or is it ready? Depending on the components of your particular play space, it may or may not be ready for Mother Nature to turn your play space into a winter wonderland.
If you have a spray or splash park, you’ll want to be sure that you have checked with your manufacturer’s manual to be sure you have covered all your bases. Assuming you live in a colder climate, make sure you have cleared all pipes of water to prevent breakage during periods of extreme winter temperatures. If there are components that may need to be moved indoors for whatever reason, be sure they are stored properly. In Idaho, it’s not uncommon to have a spell of 20 degrees below zero type weather. So if you live in a similar climate, be sure you take care of your system. Nothing can drown the fun in water play like having to repair pipes before anyone can utilize the park, not to mention the owner of the cost associated with repairs.
Denver isn’t much different, and the parks and rec department there find it particularly demanding to service the equipment and prepare for winter because of the constant use. Constant use is a good thing, and they still find time for bi-monthly maintenance and inspections. They will sometimes have to remove a particular piece of equipment, so employees will sometimes have to put a safety barrier up until the proper repair can be made. It used to be that graffiti removal was a summer month problem, but now parks and rec find they are reporting graffiti daily no matter the time of year, so make sure you have the tools necessary to remove it so it isn’t a permanent fixture in your play area.
As usual, if using engineered wood fiber or other loose fill materials, the surfacing is replenished throughout the year. If it’s snow-covered already, obviously there isn’t much you can do at that point. Just make sure you have budgeted and planned for the materials you will need in the spring to be sure you have the proper depth of surfacing needed.
If you have a nice grassy area and natural amenities surrounding your playground, be sure you have done your pre-winter maintenance there as well. There are products such as humates that help protect your grass during the winter. Be sure plants and bushes are protected if extra protection from elements is needed. Now is the time to trim bushes and trees so that the nutrients are pulled down into the roots to aid in winter survival. If you have questions about this, check with your local nursery to find out what needs to be done in your particular zone, as different zones are able to grow different plants. They should know what type of protection natural amenities will need.
Be sure to make all the regular playground maintenance checks as well. Watch for and repair any possible protrusion and entanglement hazards. Remember the “dime test” to check to see that S hooks do not have large gaps in them. Also, check for wear and tear on these hooks to reduce the risk of a chain falling and dropping a swinging child to the ground.
Check wear on all structures, watching for gaps that create a pinch hazard as well. These are checks that should be made regularly, but be sure you incorporate them into your winterizing checklist if you don’t already have them listed. Equipment should always be in good repair for the safety of the user. Most children don’t let the winter months and a healthy dose of snow stop them from playing on structures.
Winter brings ice and ice is not impact attenuating
This is important!!! Winter brings cold temperatures (anything below 32F) and cold temperatures bring ice. Any ice, other than the cubes floating in your glass, is not impact attenuating.
Surfacing systems are tested to ASTM F1292 at 24F in a dry laboratory condition. When they are wet and frozen, they are a block of ice.
Do your kids a favor. Discourage winter use. Disable, close, remove swings, etc.
If a child falls and sustains an injury when it is frozen, the owner/operator/maintainer is going to be on the hook for any consequences.
Just play in the snow.
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