Summer Means Play: 4 Steps to Properly Maintain Your Community Playground
In order to enhance the community spirit and provide amenities, many HOA's successfully maintain community playgrounds. This is of particular interest during summer when school is out in North America and most children are at loose ends.
At the playground, children can run out some of their built-up energy, play, and make friends. Of course, if they're going to stay safe while playing, and if HOA/COA leaders are going to relieve themselves of additional liability concerns, a properly maintained playground is an absolute must.
4 Steps to Properly Maintain Your Community Playground
While there are additional concerns that will eventually need to be addressed, these four steps are the best place to get started.
1. Investigate State and Federal Regulations
When it comes to maintaining safe and enjoyable community playgrounds, a clear understanding of federal, state, and local regulations is key.
At the most basic level, The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission sets the standards for playground equipment. In its 42-page "Handbook for Public Playground Safety," the commission recommends tools for evaluating current playgrounds or planning new ones.
In addition, HOA playgrounds must meet the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements mandated by the federal government. That means considerations like a well-maintained wheelchair ramp providing access to the play area.
Finally, state and local regulations cannot be overlooked; however, they do vary significantly. Be sure to check with your local building inspection office about any permits the association might need to start or make changes to the HOA playground.
2. Ensure Safe Surfaces
Falls are the number one cause of playground injuries; therefore, a safe landing surface under playground equipment is a must.
Two popular surfaces for HOA playgrounds:
- Wood chips. Playground wood chips are a safe and effective solution. Best of all, particularly during the summer months, they are less sensitive to extreme temperatures and do not become hot to the touch, even during long stretches of exposure to direct sunlight.
- Loose rubber. While loose rubber mulch is an attractive and affordable option for community playgrounds, it can become extremely hot when exposed to direct sunlight. Not only that, but the gathering heat radiates heat upwards, creating an environment by which children could easily overheat.
If your community playground is shaded, of course, either of these options could prove a wise choice. If it's exposed to lots of direct sunlight, however, it's likely wiser to choose wood chips as your safe-surface option.
3. Establish a Routine Maintenance Schedule
Even with proper care and attention, industry experts estimate the average life of playground equipment to be 15 years. Without that, the life of the playground will be significantly shorter.
Because of the ongoing tendency toward entropy, the integrity of a community playground is constantly devolving.
- Chains rust
- Plastic grows mold
- Wood breaks down and splinters
- Bolts and screws loosen
- Wood chips scatter
- Metal frames rust
- Ropes fray
To ensure the ongoing safety of children and community members who use the playground, a routine maintenance schedule must be established and strictly followed.
4. Address Legal Concerns
Legal concerns crop up both before the playground is installed and during its tenure serving the community.
When planning a playground for the first time, association leaders should meet with an attorney. An attorney can review any vendor contracts, permit applications, and insurance policies.
Once the playground is in use, it's inevitable that children will injure themselves while playing. Over 200,000 children visit emergency rooms every year with playground-related injuries.
What's important is that the association's legal bases covered.
- Equipment must be kept up to date
- Policies should be regularly reviewed with the association attorney
- Signs and notices about safe play should be posted
The Bottom Line
Playgrounds play an important role in childhood development and community life. They encourage both physical movement and social engagement.
In today's world of smartphones and technology, it's now more important than ever to encourage children (and all of us!) to spend time playing outside.
By properly maintaining a common area playground, HOAs and COAs can offer children a safe place to run, jump, climb, and play with others.
RealManage Can Help
At RealManage, we offer solutions to community problems.
For more information on how we can help, please contact us today!