Playgrounds put on hold | SteamboatToday.com

Playgrounds put on hold

Onset of winter delays final installation at elementary schools

Zach Fridell

Inclement weather has delayed the completion of the new universal playgrounds at Strawberry Park and Soda Creek elementary schools. Steamboat Springs School District Facilities Director Rick Denney said the swings, tire swing and climbing webs will be roped off until the final rubber surface material is installed in spring. Most of the new equipment, however, will be available for use this winter.

The new universal playgrounds at Strawberry Park and Soda Creek elementary schools will remain unfinished through the winter, because inclement weather has delayed the installation of the rubber surface that will provide a safe cushion for children. Nevertheless, much of the new equipment will be available to children throughout the snowy months ahead.

Steamboat Springs School District Facilities Director Rick Denney said the district is forced to wait until late spring to install the final layer of rubber matting under the equipment. The first layer of padding – between 2 and 3 inches deep – has been installed at the Soda Creek playground and on half of Strawberry Park’s playground.

Denney said the existing padding is sufficient to keep students safe, but swings, climbing webs and a tire swing will be roped off until the final surfacing can be put in place. The second layer will be at least 1-inch deep and is used to bond the surface to keep the material in place.

Despite the delay, Denney said about 80 to 90 percent of the equipment will be available to students during the winter. Gravel, mulch or some other safe groundcover will be used at the Strawberry Park playground until the first rubber layer can be completed.

Shelly St. Pierre, co-organizer of Let’s All Play, the group in charge of organizing the playgrounds and raising funds for their construction, said she was disappointed by the delay.

However, “we’re excited that we’ve gotten this far, and we’ll be even more excited when they’re all done. It’s definitely been a rewarding project to do,” she said.

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Julie Taulman, the other Let’s All Play co-organizer, said letters are being sent to all parents of Soda Creek and Strawberry Park students, as well as to donors who contributed to the project.

“We appreciate everyone being patient, and in the long run, waiting a couple of months is not a big deal for the lifetime of this gift,” she said. “They’ll be able to use this forever.”

Taulman also said students with disabilities, such as her son, will be affected the most by the delay because it will be difficult for him to get on the structure until the final surfacing is in place.

The company in charge of the installation – Children’s Playstructures & Recreation – subcontracted the installation of the surfacing to another company and would not guarantee the installation if construction continued in weather below 40 degrees. The cold weather creates bonding problems for the glue used to secure the rubberized surfaces.

“We discussed everybody’s experience in regards to this,” Denney said. “The ground has a certain temperature that’s hard to maintain, regardless of what temperature you keep the air.”

Denney said the installation crew attempted to use tents and heating systems to create the warmth needed to bond the rubber mats, but a windstorm knocked down the structures after four hours.

“The risk involved is that the material could fail, not immediately but several years down the road,” Denney said. If installed properly, the surfacing should last at least 10 years.

In the spring, St. Pierre said the volunteer group will hold a grand opening ceremony and install signs, including pictures of the community-build days.

The universal playground group raised nearly $1 million in cash and labor donations. St. Pierre said she did not expect the delay to cause any additional costs.

In the meantime – probably a week until most of the play structures are open – students will continue to play on grass and basketball courts at the schools.

“They were patient for a while, but they’re starting to get a little antsy, of course,” St. Pierre said.

– To reach Zach Fridell, call 871-4208

or e-mail zfridell@steamboatpilot.com