Spring cleaning is important for playgrounds just as it is with our homes and yards. Properly cleaned and maintained playgrounds are safer playgrounds
In many parts of the county, we find that parks and playgrounds have not received much use in the last four or five months due to the falling snow and frosty temperatures. But now, the ice is melting and the air is warming. Warm temperatures and sunshine will again rule the skies. This means that America's children will soon be found at our local city parks. As winter gives way to springtime and thoughts of swaying swings, spinning merry-go-rounds, and the joyful glee of children at play, it should be a reminder to parks directors and all playground owners to begin preparation for the hundreds of children that will visit their playgrounds.
Now is the time of year that many do spring cleaning in their homes, garages, yards, and businesses. Your local park is no exception to spring time organization and improvement. It is likely that time and extreme weather have taken a tolI on your play areas. There are many degrees of damage winter can do to the different types of playgrounds. Ground maintenance crews and playground inspection crews trained to notice things that may require replacement, repair, or cosmetic touch-up shou Id arrive on the scene well ahead of schedule to prepare your play area for use by sunshine-starved children.
Many city parks, school grounds, and other play areas have trees in the vicinity of the playground. Broken branches may have cluttered your play area and certainly leaves have begun to decay on your safety surfacing. Crews should be diligent to remove Mother Nature's tree debris, especially in and close to the loose fill surfacing.
Many times inspections and maintenance are curtailed during the winter months and now is the time to put your inspector to work to ensure that your playground does indeed meet safety criteria (remember 1487-01 is now available-does your inspector have a copy?) and that broken and damaged parts are replaced. If you have kept good records, ordering replacement parts is a cinch. Parts, even down to the last bolt and washer have a corresponding part number. This list, provided by the equipment manufacturer when the equipment was purchased, becomes especially important when ordering parts for older model equipment. Order early to ensure parts are installed and equipment is in top working order before play begins.
Dirt and grime may have collected on equipment components. Washing the entire structure is a common springtime job for maintenance crews. If power washing facilities are not feasible, a good plastic bristle brush and bucket of soapy water will do the job just as well. A clean playground lasts longer and is more inviting to children and their parents. It demonstrates to your community that children are important to the owners of the park.
Winter weather conditions can compact safety surfacing. Evaluate loose-fill surfacing to determine if the depth is correct. Exposed concrete footing is a sign of improper surfacing depth and should be addressed. Topping off surfacing to the proper level may be necessary. High impact areas should be filled in and raked. Unitary rubber products should be checked as welI. Care should be taken to repair and replace rubber tiles that have peeled or come loose due to extreme temperatures. Examine poured-in-place products for places that may need patched.
Be aware, wooden structures require special maintenance and service before and after winter months. The snow, cold and moisture take their toll on wood by getting inside the wood fibers, expanding and contracting and generally deteriorating the wood unless measures are taken such as applying a protective coat of sealer and/or stain to your wood play equipment. This protection helps wood keep its original wood color and prevents deterioration and splinters. Check for loose nails, bolts and other hardware. Use a file and sander to remove rough and splintering surface areas.
Unfortunately vandals may not have hibernated during the winter months and you might need to remove graffiti or repair parts that have been damaged by knives or fire. The sooner you access the damage and make a plan for repair, the sooner your equipment will be up and running again. Any time a maintenance problem poses a safety threat, close your playground to public use by securing the site with safety fencing and signage.
As winter drives both children and maintenance crews indoors, make sure your maintenance crews beat the spring rush by servicing the playgrounds before the public arrives. Of course, all playgrounds should be inspected and maintained regularly. Early spring care and service requires extra time and care. It will help preserve the life of your play equipment and keep it aesthetica lly beautiful.