County park playgrounds receive makeover
(Maricopa County) – The next time you visit a Maricopa County park, you may notice that some of the critters you spy on the playground appear to be larger than life. Don’t worry, you’re not seeing things, they really ARE larger than life!
“Last year, we had an outside agency conduct a free safety assessment on our playground systems. The audit highlighted what we suspected, our 20-plus-year-old playground systems were outdated, not compliant with current standards and in need of a makeover,” said R.J. Cardin, Maricopa County Parks and Recreation Department Director.
To bring the playground systems up to code, the department approached the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors for one-time funds to remove potential safety hazards and ensure the playgrounds were ADA compliant.
The Board approved initial funding for improvements to Cave Creek, Estrella Mountain, McDowell Mountain, Usery Mountain and White Tank Mountain Regional Parks.
“The department focused on selecting nature-based pieces that would not only blend into the parks’ natural surroundings, but also encourage young visitors to explore these surroundings and appreciate our beautiful Sonoran Desert,” said Maricopa County Supervisor Steve Chucri, District 2.
The newly renovated playgrounds feature mountain lion and arch boulders, rope wall link climbers, fallen cactus balance beams, climbing boulders, spider web climbers, cactus fossil rock steppers and cactus themed T-swings. The playgrounds also feature large shade structures to keep families cool while they play.
The cost to renovate playgrounds in the five parks was approximately $749,212. This included site preparation, demolition of old equipment, excavation of sand in pits, geo-textiles to prevent soil erosion, installation of reinforced concrete pads, playground equipment transportation and installation, and engineered wood fiber ground coverage.
Once settled, the engineered wood fiber ground cover will form a compacted layer which supports a variety of mobility devices such as strollers, wheelchairs and crutches. In addition, the material will assist in the protection of children who may experience a fall while on the playground. The wood fiber is non-toxic and does not contain paint, chemicals or additives.
“There is one piece of equipment that I think the kids are really going to gravitate towards, the rattlesnake climber with tube slide installed at McDowell Mountain Regional Park. You should have seen the excitement at the park when the flatbed rolled in with the snake tethered to the trailer! I’ve even overheard a few members from my team say that they would ‘love’ to try it out,” added Cardin.
Renovations have been completed at four of the five park playgrounds. Crews have recently begun updating fixtures at Estrella Mountain Regional Park with a projected completion date of mid-February. Should funding become available in the FY15 budget, the department will explore the possibility of continued renovations on additional county park playgrounds.
Maricopa County is home to one of the largest regional parks systems in the nation with over 120,000 acres of open space parks that include hundreds of miles of trails, a variety of campsites and unlimited educational opportunities on the flora and fauna found in the Sonoran Desert. For more information on the playgrounds or Maricopa County’s regional park system, visit www.maricopa.gov/parks or call (602) 506-2930.
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About Maricopa County’s Parks and Recreation Department: Maricopa County is home to one of the largest regional parks systems in the nation with over 120,000 acres of open space parks that include hundreds of miles of trails, campgrounds, nature centers and the Desert Outdoor Environmental Learning Center at Lake Pleasant.
Currently, there are 10 regional parks in the system. Whether you're planning on hiking along a barrier-free trail, enjoying the scenic Sonoran Desert views on horseback, or peddling rigorously up a trail on a mountain bike, the parks offer a variety of opportunities for all types of users, ages and comfort levels. Best of all, Maricopa County's regional parks are all within a 45-minute drive from downtown Phoenix!