Feature Article - January 2019
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Plan to Recover

Disaster Recovery for Parks & Recreation Areas

By Deborah L. Vence


Encourage Recovery Efforts

With or without a plan, however, parks and recreation areas still have to figure out a way to pick up the pieces and move on after a disaster occurs.

A park area in New Jersey has worked to get back on track following Hurricane Sandy—a destructive hurricane that pounded the East Coast back in 2012 and caused billions of dollars in damage.

"Our clients all along the New Jersey Shore area were severely affected by Superstorm Sandy," Miller said. "One in particular near our office is Belmar, N.J. Several of their playgrounds located on the beach were damaged. Following the storm, they had our designers come evaluate the play structures and decided to replace them completely."

Historically, the Borough of Belmar, N.J., has had playground equipment along their beaches for beachgoers to enjoy.

Miller explained that during Superstorm Sandy, the playgrounds were submerged in the Atlantic Ocean waters for several days before the water subsided.

"While playground manufacturers go to great lengths to prevent corrosion, saltwater is particularly corrosive, especially when exposed to the playground for extensive periods of time," Miller said.

"The play structures were further damaged by debris including pieces of the boardwalk being slammed into them," he said. "Slides and other lighter components broke off from the constant beating and washed into the ocean. Between the water and physical damage, it was decided [that] new structures would be the best option."

Belmar chose an aquatic theme for their four new play structures along the beach.

"The custom GFRC pirate ship playgrounds (two of them), along with the other themed components on the four playgrounds, totaled about $300,000. Budget costs for the four playgrounds can range anywhere from about $75,000 to $1 million-plus, depending on the type of playground equipment and the level of customization the customer is seeking," Miller explained.

In another example, Wright talked about the efforts in Houston following Hurricane Harvey in 2017, a devastating storm that is considered one of the costliest tropical cyclones on record, causing billions of dollars in damage, mainly from flooding in the Houston metropolitan area and Southeast Texas.

"We were fortunate to have only two parks under the department's management that received damage during Hurricane Harvey. Lake Houston Wilderness Park (4,786 acres), which required complete building repairs and/or relocation and replacement, and Cullen Park, a 200-acre park where silt deposits covered the entire park and had to be removed," Wright said.

At Lake Houston Wilderness Park, 10 buildings took on water in the park, and trails and campsites were damaged. The parks' two lodges took on 8 and 12 feet of water and are still closed.

Volunteers and a government-funded program, called Turnaround Houston, helped tremendously with rebuilding the park. "They supplied two temporary employees that worked 40 hours per week to help rebuild the park," Wright said.

Volunteers stepped in and continue to volunteer over a year later to help with recovery efforts on various projects that help recover and improve the park.

Cullen Park lies partly within the Addicks Reservoir, which is managed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Recovery efforts, which are still in progress, have included the following:

  • More than 4,000 cubic yards of silt removed from parking lots, picnic areas, drainage swales and roads.
  • Two competitive-level soccer fields completely renovated (silt removed, turf aerated, seeded with Bermudagrass).
  • Four competitive-level softball fields completely renovated (silt removed, turf aerated, replaced infield clay and conditioner).
  • Numerous thousands of pounds of debris were removed from the park.
  • Maintenance facility restoration (walls, flooring, furniture).
  • Numerous trees died and had to be removed.