Playground issues at forefront for Prince Albert citizens

Jodi Schellenberg
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Children and parents in the community may have noticed the new base for playgrounds in the city.

The new base, made out of wood shavings instead of the previous sand base, has raised some concerns in the minds of many citizens.

During Monday’s city council meeting, Coun. Ted Zurakowski said that he has received calls from many worried parents.

The main concern is the wood chips are not comfortable for the children when they are playing in the park.

“I think more and more people have noticed alternatives, such as the granule rubberized material that some facilities put in,” Zurakowski said.

Although wood chips are an affordable base, he thinks that they may be deterring some people from using the playground equipment at the park.

“If you take your two-year-old, your six-year-old or even your 15-year-old, you are not going to spend a whole heck of (a lot of) time (there),” he said.

The wood-shaving base was chosen because it is cheaper and easier to maintain than the sand base, Community Services Department manager Jody Boulet explained.

He considers the wood-shaving base to be a temporary solution to the problem they were facing with the sand base.

After each rainfall, the sand sucks in the moisture and then when it dries becomes hard, almost like concrete, Boulet said. This causes safety issues for the children using the playground.

With a sand base they were required to return to each park space as frequently as possibly to till the sand -- something the city doesn’t have the resources to do.

Since a different type of base, such as rubber, was not factored into the city budget, Boulet did what was the most cost effective and safe for this summer.

Both Boulet and Zurakowski hope to see rubberized material at the playgrounds in next year’s budget.

“It would be quite costly so what we are developing right now is a plan around how maybe we could phase that in,” Boulet said.

Currently, the only playground in the city with a rubberized base is at the Kinsmen Water Park, which has not required any maintenance since it was installed in 2003.

“I think it is important that we start to look at our main playgrounds in some of our main parks first to start with and bring forward a plan on how we can bring forward a more accessible and safe base, whatever that may be for the long term,” Boulet said.

Even though he has heard many concerns from parents, Zurakowski is happy to see work being done at the playgrounds around the city.

“Frankly, the neighbourhood playgrounds haven’t been maintained for years and if they were it was by complaint basis,” Zurakowski said. “I’ve been excited to be able to let people know that we are going to get back in and take care of these neighbourhood playgrounds, refurbish them a little and keep them safe.”

He understand that woodchips are the best and most cost-effective option right now.

“It is not very pleasurable when you first put them out to walk on although the professionals say they are safer,” he said.

Zurakowski has first-hand experience with the wood-shaving base, as he is both a father and a teacher.

“I’m a schoolteacher, so boy did I hear it from the kids the next day,” he laughed. “Those wood chips get everywhere they shouldn’t, that’s for sure.”

He hopes people will continue to use the playgrounds this summer, even if they do not like the base they are currently on.

“If it is not pleasurable to take our young kids there, it is not going to be used and that would be the saddest situation of all.”

Organizations: Prince Albert, Community Services

Geographic location: Kinsmen Water Park

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Recent comments

  • Jodie
    June 19, 2014 - 00:39

    Another problem with woodchips is they mold after getting wet and that is very unhealthy.

  • Elbow
    June 19, 2014 - 00:06

    The city has been using wood chips for quite a few years now in the majority of its playgrounds. The new chips were added because the old chips that were in the playgrounds had become packed down and harder now they are much safer with the new bedding of chips. And your pictures are of a school playground not a city playground Sask rivers schools also use wood chips in their playgrounds as well.