Feature Article - April 2011
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Puddle-Loving Fun

New Developments in Sprayground Design

By Deborah L. Vence

Safety Measures

Without a doubt, sprayground safety continues to be an ongoing concern for parks and recreation. Whether it's the fear of children slipping and falling on concrete, or the risk of contracting a waterborne illness, parks and recreation departments are doing their best to alleviate such problems.

LaLonde said the industry still is trying to solve the safety surface issue. The problem with a rubberized surface is that, over time, it begins to decompose underneath the surface and falls apart. And, certainly, concrete surfaces solve that problem, but that is unsafe in a sense that if a child slips and falls, the potential to get hurt is higher.

"We're still working through this evolution," LaLonde said.

Moya went on to say that "Even if the facility was built with a pad that is textured properly and the concrete has a nice brushed surface, you will still have slips and falls," he said. "Children like to run and play, and without someone telling them to 'walk, not run,' there will always be a problem."

Nevertheless, "As pour-in-place rubber surfacing is becoming less common, designers are putting more thought into the final surface, especially with concrete. Acid etching, stamping and staining can help to complement a theme while providing excellent traction on wet feet," Forrest added.

Chuck Musgrave, AIA, principal, at Barker Rinker Seacat Architecture in Denver, Colo., also noted that slip resistance can be addressed by choosing the right concrete finish and making sure the contractor pays attention to the quality of the work.

But, besides the risk of falling, waterborne illnesses and even vandalism also are of serious concern.

"The operator must be capable of addressing the many incidents that occur. Blood-borne pathogens and fecal incidents are a couple of the many types of safety items that will happen," Moya said.

"Vandalism is a concern, [too], for most owner/operators during the summer months and even more during the nine months that a facility is not in operation. Our facilities are all fenced and do not see much vandalism. The features that are installed at most spraygrounds are very expensive and, during a poor economy, most owners will not be able to replace that piece of equipment if it is damaged," he said.