Recreation Management Rec Report - The Newsletter for Recreation, Sports & Fitness Facility Managers

Feature Story

July 2020

KaBOOM! Taskforce Offers Guidance on Playground Reopening

KaBOOM!, the national nonprofit working to end playspace inequity for good, recently announced new, actionable guidance for safe playground reopening. Developed by a taskforce comprised of public health, community development, parks and recreation, and facilities experts, the guidance provides practical recommendations to playspace owners, operators and managers as they plan to reopen public playgrounds—once this is deemed safe by local health authorities.

Due to necessary measures put in place during the COVID-19 pandemic, KaBOOM!'s analysis finds that currently, playgrounds are closed and out of reach for at least 23 million kids across the United States. KaBOOM! collected data from a range of public sources to better understand the status of playground closures and the number of kids affected. Key findings at the time of the analysis include:

  • Public school closures in 40 states and in Washington, D.C., impact playground access for nearly 34 million public school students, representing two-thirds of public school students nationwide.
  • All public playgrounds are explicitly or assumed closed in 16 states and Washington, D.C.
  • Seven states had reopened playgrounds with specific state-level guidance.

As playgrounds across the country reopen, it is important that health and safety remain a priority, and strategies to reopen playgrounds be grounded in equity. The need for an equity-based approach is heightened by the disproportionate impact of playground closures on kids living in under-resourced communities of color.

"Disasters and crises deepen the inequities that communities already experience," said Nabeeha Kazi Hutchins, vice president of programs at Kaboom! and chair of the Playground Reopening Taskforce. "This specific, data-informed guidance will support a safe and equitable reopening of playgrounds so disparities in access to play don't widen."

The taskforce came together in June to develop useful guidelines and recommendations to inform the reopening of playgrounds. These guidelines will provide those in charge of playspaces with the necessary resources to support the safe reopening and use of these spaces, in accordance with the latest public health recommendations published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO).

For playground owners and operators, the taskforce outlined three overall steps that are critical to ensuring a safe reopening process:

  1. Prioritize Equity: Ensuring that communities hardest hit by the pandemic receive adequate resources to reopen requires being intentional and data-driven. Review local data and prioritize resources like signage, hand-cleaning stations and other safety measures to playgrounds in areas where case counts are highest.
  2. Plan for Reopening: Enforce the specific limits on usage outlined in the guidance to encourage social distancing, clean all equipment thoroughly and ensure safety surfacing is maintained and compliant with safety standards.
  3. Enable Safe Playground Reopening: Post accessible and visible playground signage with safety guidelines, engage community members to provide hand-washing and sanitizing stations if possible, and train staff and volunteers to support safe and health behaviors.

"Parks and playspaces are essential community infrastructure and critical for the healthy development of kids," said Kristine Stratton, CEO of the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA). "Ensuring public health and equity must be the top priority as families return to their neighborhood parks and playspaces. These guidelines equip park and recreation professionals and playground owners and operators with the tools they need to make safe and equitable decisions about how to reopen playgrounds."

"While the current environment calls on us to reopen playgrounds in safe and equitable ways, we cannot lose sight of the journey ahead," Hutchins added. "We must redouble our efforts to end playspace inequities. And we should start with communities that have experienced a long history of disinvestment."

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