In The Wake of Disaster

Lake Charles Park & Recreation in Lake Charles, La.

By Richie Ward


ebuilding efforts are under way in the City of Lake Charles, La., and shade has become a top priority. After suffering the direct effects from Hurricane Katrina in August 2005 and Hurricane Rita in September 2005, Lake Charles has spent the past several years in reconstruction to restore its once vibrant landmark in the State of Louisiana.

Situated between Houston and New Orleans, Lake Charles is home to the sandy beaches of the Calcasieu River and is just 30 miles upstream from the Gulf of Mexico. Lake Charles is connected to the gulf by means of a deep-water ship channel that provided direct access to the city for the 2005 hurricanes.

As a result of hurricane damage, the City of Lake Charles was a recipient of some $10.9 million in recovery aid from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). This money was to be used to rebuild parks, recreational facilities, fire and police stations, and the Lake Charles Civic Center. The city is well on its way to completing the rebuilding efforts that will reinvigorate the city after two tragic natural disasters.

When considering the parks and recreation aspect of the city revitalization plan, shade became a top priority. And with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) providing professional recommendations to the country for the need for shade, it is no wonder why shade protection became so very important for the citizens and children of Lake Charles.

Shade structures provide protection from the damaging effects of unprotected sun exposure, which often leads to skin cancer. When cities, park agencies and others learn this information, shade becomes a safety issue, and thus a priority, instead of an optional accessory. Shade protection in public places such as parks and recreational facilities is the best way to protect the citizens of Lake Charles.

It is estimated that one in five people in America will develop skin cancer in their lifetime, with that number growing rapidly among children. One serious sunburn can increase the risk by as much as 50 percent.

Shade structures provide protection from the sun's harmful ultraviolet rays. They allow children to enjoy their parks and recreational facilities during the midday hours, a time when these facilities have typically been unusable because of the immense heat on playground equipment. Shade structures can lower temperatures by 15 to 20 degrees on playground equipment.

The City of Lake Charles will enjoy another added benefit of shade protection: playground equipment investment protection. Since the city has invested heavily in its playground infrastructure, protection of that investment and equipment longevity are two important considerations. Adding shade protection to cover playground equipment or other outdoor park structures will reduce the sun's harmful UV rays by up to 99 percent. This tremendous benefit will help protect the City of Lake Charles' valuable investment by ensuring costly playground equipment is virtually shielded from damaging UV rays.

Once the decision to add shade protection to the newly rebuilt City of Lake Charles parks had been made, aesthetics and engineering were the next considerations in the process. Many different types of shade structures are available for parks and playground use. However, a primary consideration of the city called for a structure that could sustain the intense winds and storms Lake Charles experiences every year.

Pat Moore of Moore Planning Group led the vendor-selection process and based the decision to go with Shade Systems on the company's warranty support, aesthetically pleasing structures, high wind loads and easy-to-use functionality for removing and reattaching a canopy once it has been installed.

The City of Lake Charles sought an aesthetically pleasing design that was not only impressive and visually appealing, but extremely functional and versatile as well. After exploring several options and product lines, the city chose a custom "sail" system for the seven-park project. The sails feature stainless-steel connections and hardware for long life while being pre-engineered in a way to add visual interest to the parks' skyline. As desired, sails protect children and citizens from 99 percent of the sun's harmful UV rays and keep the playgrounds much cooler.

Installation has been very successful, and the sails have certainly added many positive benefits to the City of Lake Charles parks.

Mayor Ranch Roach and staff have expressed satisfaction with the products and the much-needed shade provided at the park sites where the sails were installed. There is no doubt that children are able to use the Lake Charles playground facilities more than they normally would now that the playground equipment is cool enough to play on during the midday hours. And the city is benefiting as well by providing increased safety to their citizens with shade protection and also benefiting from the investment protection they're receiving.


City of Lake Charles, La.:

Shade Systems Inc.:

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