Feature Article - October 2011
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Safe Haven

Protect Patrons & Beautify Sites With Shade & Shelters

By Rick Dandes

All About the Shade

Although by now most people are aware of the comforts and health benefits of staying in the shade, a recent study from Consumer Reports revealed that many popular sunscreens are not providing the protection consumers expect. For one thing, lotions need to be re-applied so often that most people cannot realistically apply enough to be adequately protected. Further, the Consumer Reports study showed that many popular lotions simply do not protect against cancer-causing UVA rays.

Since the 1930s the odds of being diagnosed with skin cancer have increased dramatically, so when shade structures are added to a park system one of the primary reasons is to reduce harmful sun exposure to residents and visitors.

"Ultimately," said Alan Bayman, president of an Ocala, Fla.-based company that manufactures both shelters and shade structures, "there is no better protection than finding a shady place, and imaginative and colorful shade canopies can provide this type of foolproof protection."

A shade canopy installed over a playground also keeps the equipment cooler.

Shade canopies can be made of various materials, but fabric—often manufactured from high density polyethylene (HDPE)—is most common and recognizable. It is strong, durable and comes in many colors. The lightweight tops are porous, making them cooler than canvas tops, as they allow air to pass through.

In Miami Beach, said Rhonda Gracie, "we have added 14 shade systems to our playgrounds over the past five years and will add an additional three more this coming year. Since we began installing shade systems at our parks we noticed a dramatic increase in use within our playgrounds. Our patrons now stay and play longer."

At schools, one of the best ways to protect children from solar radiation is simply to provide ways for them to avoid the sun and find shade. This can be done with a grouping of shade trees, a shade structure over the play equipment, a shade structure element like the side of a tall building, or an available indoor area. Permanent shade structures provide an alternative for creating high-quality shade where trees may not be the best option.