Feature Article - November 2005
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Handy Solutions to Common Problems

By Stacy St. Clair, Jenny E. Beeh and Kelli Anderson

How To Add Shade Protection

It's no exaggeration to say shade protection can help save lives. It has become an invaluable partner in the fight against skin cancers.

The depletion of the earth's ozone is increasing our exposure to the sun's dangerous ultraviolet rays. With more than 1 million cases diagnosed each year, skin cancer currently ranks among the fastest growing cancers in the United States. A baby born today is twice as likely to develop skin cancer than 10 years ago. Research also shows as few as two severe sunburns during childhood double the chance of developing potentially deadly melanoma later in life.

As more and more people become aware of the harmful effects of ultraviolet exposure, an increasing number of recreation managers are providing sun protection at their facilities. Playgrounds, splash play areas, pools, skateparks, bleachers, dugouts and concession areas—which were once left uncovered—now are being protected with shade canopies. As an added benefit, shade covers also can help protect spectators and children from inclement weather as well as errant foul balls from adjacent ball fields. In short, this once optional park amenity has become a required element where the public's health and welfare is concerned.


Fortunately, the shade industry is ready to help in the fight against ultraviolet rays with long-lasting, durable and attractive components. The best elements offer extensive warranties and come in a range of colors and shapes. When purchasing a new shade system, you first must ask yourself several questions. What is the warranty on rust through corrosion on metal components? What is the deterioration warranty on fabric canopies, including stitching thread? And, most importantly, does the canopy screen up to 99 percent of ultraviolet rays?


Recreation managers also should consider whether the shade element's design allows you to remove and then re-attach the canopies during the winter or in the event of severe weather such as a hurricane. While most canopies can withstand at least 80 mile-per-hour winds, they do not provide a substantial snow-load rating. They also cannot survive a hurricane's angry thrashing. Therefore, it's important to look for a system that enables you to remove canopies as needed and easily reattach them later without hiring outside installers.


When deciding how large or how tall your shade cover should be, you must consider playground requirements established by the American Society for Testing and Materials. Overhead obstacles should be at least 7 feet away from the nearest designated play surface. As the amount of shade provided is inversely related to the shade cover's height, try not to exceed the minimum by too much. Check with your manufacturer for exact spacing, as many shade roofs are hip designs that rise higher as they approach the canopy's center. When covering bleachers, stay 8 feet above the top row to discourage patrons from reaching up and grabbing the roof rafters. On all other shade applications, common sense prevails when deciding where to place the posts. For example, avoid high-traffic areas and beware of underground piping and building foundations.


Canopies also offer a secondary benefit to recreation managers with tight budgets. Facilities throughout the country use colorful permanent shade structures to give their parks a facelift, as well as protection from the elements. While they're keeping patrons safe, shade structures need not be sterile, boring elements. Embrace the various shades and colors offered as a way to add some flair to your park. Vibrant hues and fun styles can bolster a playful and energetic atmosphere at your facility.

  F O R   M O R E   I N F O R M A T I O N  

Shade Systems Inc. 800-609-6066

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