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February 2009 Playground Equipment
By: Shane Lanier

Here are some of the most frequently asked questions by church leaders regarding playground equipment and accessories.

Can church symbols be put on the playground?
Yes, most companies will be able to add your church logo to an activity panel on the playground. One side would have an activity and the other side that faces away from the interior would have the church logo.

Do churches have to follow all regulations that other public departments have to follow?
Playgrounds are a part of the ASTM Standards. In some states, it is a law to comply with the ASTM 1487. Hopefully, someday all states will make it mandatory to comply with the standards. The main objective of the standards is to keep playgrounds safe.

Can we phase out a project due to budget?
Depending on the manufacturer, you can add to the playground in modular sections as you raise more money.

Does the area for the playground need to be level?
Yes, it does to a certain degree. It depends on the type of surfacing you choose. If you were to use loose fill mulch, it does not have to be perfectly flat. If you were to use Pour in Place Rubber, it would need to have a compacted flat base. Imperfections in the base will show through on the surfacing. All grades need to be close to 2 percent.

Are playgrounds focused toward different age groups?
Yes, and the various categories are: 0-2, 2-5, 5-12, and 2-12. If it is in your budget, it is best to have two separate areas: one for 2-5 and one for 5-12. If not, you can go with a 2-12 playground, but this will require keeping strong supervision on the little ones.

Do I need something to shade my playground?
There are many options on how you can shade your playground. The plastic roofs that are a part of the structure are aesthetically appealing but give the least shade. The second best would be a fabric shade attached to the structure that is around the same price range but spans a larger area.

The most expensive option is to shade the entire playground with a structure that is not attached to the playground. Overall, it is the best choice. The fabric will block the UV rays from damaging the colors of the playground. Also, it keeps it around 20 degrees cooler for the entire area. There are many different types of styles and sizes for shade structures to suit your budget and overall look. A shade system is always a good investment.

Do I need a bench near the playground?
For the bench, it is a matter of opinion. I've heard both sides of the story. Some pre-school directors will not allow benches in the playground area. Their reasoning is the teachers should be on the playground with the kids supervising them.

On the other hand, some directors would say the leaders need a break to sit, just as the kids need a break to play. If you're in between, leave it up to the teachers to decide. If there's not a pre-school at your church, I would suggest at least one bench with a back.

Do I need a picnic table and trashcan?
Picnic tables are always a nice idea. I would not suggest purchasing a table without a trashcan. You can purchase the can itself without a liner; don't do it. It's only a few dollars more, and this will keep any of the small rodents or dogs from getting in through the bottom of the trashcan and spreading the trash all over your playground area.

There are many different types of lids. The one I always suggest is the plastic dome top with the spring-loaded door. If you need to put a pizza box or something larger than the lid door, you can always remove the complete dome lid with one hand to fit it in. If you are afraid of the dome disappearing, you can purchase a lanyard to attach it to the mounted trashcan. The main reason I recommend this lid is the spring-loaded door. This will keep out most of the smell and greatly reduce flies and other pesky flying creatures.

Do I have to have surfacing or can I just use the grass I already have?
Most life-threatening accidents that occur on playgrounds are due to insufficient playground surfacing. If you don't have it in your budget for the surfacing, choose a smaller playground that you can add on to later. Wait until the funds come around so you can do it the right way.

If you purchase loose fill surfacing, it does need to be maintained. It depends on the use of the playground to say when the maintenance needs to be done. Usually, once a month is good. To maintain your surfacing, simply rake the high areas into the low areas to make it even.

Can I pick the colors of my playground?
Yes. Some colors will attract more heat than others. If you have a shade system, I wouldn't worry about one color being hotter than the other.

How do I clean it?
The best tool is a pressure washer with a mild soap. Depending on your climate and usage, you may have to clean it once a year or more.

Can we get volunteers from the church to help with the installation?
Yes and no. Some companies will allow this, and some will not. What we normally do is have a certified installer join your team of volunteers to make sure it's built correctly.

It really is a great way to get the community together and build something for the kids. You will need to keep the kids off the playground for 24 to 48 hours to let the concrete set. That's a task in itself.

Shane Lanier is the founder of KORKAT, a complete service company that offers individualized playgrounds and stylish site furnishings, www.korkat.com.

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