Feature Article - March 2011
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Maintenance Series: Spraygrounds

Don't Walk Away
Spraygrounds Require Ongoing Maintenance

By Dawn Klingensmith

Cenla's views notwithstanding, consider whether fencing the area and having specified hours of operation might deter vandals. Some state codes require splashpads to be enclosed to prevent after-hours access by people and animals, and some go further to require the splashpad to be off-limits to patrons unless a supervisor is present. Installing cameras is another possible deterrent to misuse and vandalism.

Also in the design phase, "Think long and hard about what surfacing goes down and if the coating you choose is one you can reapply with your own crew and rollers," Brannon said. Otherwise, should certified installers be required, it could be surprisingly costly just to get them to the site.

Be advised that rubberized surfaces, though cushiony, "can build up some nasty bacteria" and are hard to keep free of grit and grime, said Jim Sauer of the landscape architecture and civil engineering firm, J.T. Sauer & Associates, McKees Rocks, Pa.

Concrete surfaces should have a non-slip broom-finish, with the grooves aimed at the drain to help direct water and debris there. Unless a sand-based, non-slip paint is used, you mustn't coat the textured surface because paint fills and defeats the purpose of the grooves, Sauer said.

Where paint is used, don't allow it to get too deteriorated, or it will need to be blasted off entirely before repainting as opposed to simply adding a layer over the existing paint.

Expect to redo coated or painted surfaces every three to five years.

Another thing to budget for is the obsolescence of play features. Though they may remain in good working order, play components will outlive their novelty and cease to attract and amuse patrons. Because manufacturers stand to gain from this, they are making play equipment that interchangeably installs on the same type of mounting plate. However, municipalities with multiple splashpads can revitalize each facility by rotating play elements among the facilities, Sauer pointed out. At a single facility, a good rule of thumb is to plan on making updates at year five; from then on, replace or switch out one-fifth of the equipment each year, Brannon said.

Stepped-up sanitation requirements in some states have added to construction costs and maintenance duties; however, the tradeoff is worth it, Morgan said. The Centers for Disease Control recommends, and certain state codes require, the use of a secondary treatment system such as UV generators to reduce the threat of water-borne illness.

"UV is probably the best thing to come along in the industry in quite a few years. It neutralizes the contaminants that make people sick," Morgan said.