Feature Article - October 2014
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Made in the Shade

Shelters & Shade Structures to Set Your Site Apart

By Rick Dandes

Park planner Shauna Welty, Conejo Recreation and Park District, Thousand Oaks, Calif., has similar concerns. The Conejo Recreation and Park District covers 66 square miles and serves a population of more than 140,000 people in Thousand Oaks, Newbury Park and the Ventura County portion of Westlake Village. The Parks Division maintains more than 50 parks covering over 1,000 acres. Welty most often has to worry about those strong Santa Ana winds.

"Basically, with shade structures," she said, "we've done five different locations, and every one is a different scenario. As to what we decide on, if an existing site, we have constraints, so those constraints become very important in terms of shape we'd want to purchase from a manufacturer. The shape, the height required, the coloring, the exact location, even where the post footings will go, because some of them are located over play areas within a tot play area even. And so in those cases, we are a lot more restricted. And many times we need something at an existing site, where we've wanted shade for years and we've been using something, a funky temporary form. Maybe as simple as a table and an umbrella. We have Santa Ana winds here and that just blows them out.

From standard forms to unique custom applications, shade structures afford a myriad of solutions to meet the needs of a park manager.

"On a site that is completely new," Welty continued, "you have all options there. In one of our parks we had a very large picnic area that had very little shade. It had a small wood structure that was maybe 1/20th of the entire area. And that's all the shade it had for a number of years. So, at that site, we knew what we wanted. Something to cover everything. We chose a sail style, so it would be pretty, different. That park has a lot of open field to it with sky and mountains, like Thousand Oaks has in many areas. So, we went to a really beautiful shade structure there. We're getting rave reviews on that one. Cost was an issue, but we planned for it for years in advance, got our funding set up. It was a $150,000 to $180,000 structure. It is just gorgeous."

Other parts of the country have snow or cold weather conditions to consider. Many shade-solution materials are available in these parts of the country such as traditional metal like steel, wood and other composite material, as well as fabric. Solid and sturdy architectural fabrics, such as PVC membranes, can be designed and engineered to withstand many challenging rain, snow and other climatic situations.

However, Abrecht said, a mesh fabric shade structure is still a viable solution in these regions as the lightweight material and its potential simplicity of design, unlike a heavy metal or wood structure, allows for the simple removal of the "fabric roof" for portions of the year when outdoor usage and activity are reduced.

Most importantly, all regions of the country have specific building codes that provide standards for design and engineering to best protect people in the park or facility by holding to standards that dictate long-term performance and quality. Following and holding to those standards protects the recreational facility or park, and their investment.