Supplement Feature - September 2012
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Protect & Serve

Playground Safety Starts With the Surface

By Wynn St. Clair

In Bettendorf, Iowa, recreation officials also found themselves confronted with a surfacing dilemma recently as the poured-in-place rubber surface at McManus Park began to show signs of age. The park—a crown jewel in the community—had installed a universally accessible playground about a dozen years ago. With help from the Junior League of the Quad Cities, the $200,000 playground enjoyed heavy use for more than a decade, thanks to its fun-inspiring features and its proximity to a major interstate.

The park's popularity, naturally, took a toll on the playground surface after 12 years, and the rubber was in need of repair. Recreation officials weighed the cost of patching the surface against completely replacing it. In the end, they decided a new surface would be the most cost-effective decision, which meant they needed to start investigating the many options available.

The playground equipment had several years left in it and city officials wanted a surface to share that lifespan. When a national synthetic grass manufacturer offered a warranty that would complement the playground structure's timetable, the city found its solution.

The new surface, which cost about $62,000, boasts a five-year warranty and is expected to last until the city needs to replace the existing playground equipment in another 15 to 20 years, Bettendorf Parks and Recreation Director Steve Grimes, said.

The decision, however, did not come without some trailblazing on the city's part. Bettendorf is one of the first communities in Iowa to use synthetic grass, so recreation officials had few opportunities to investigate the turf's practical use in the state. Park supervisors knew the surface would be safe, as it is installed with padding and infill to meet all the safety standards required by ASTM for critical head falls. It also boasts an antimicrobial, non-allergenic surface.