As many of you have seen, the play equipment in the parks around Westlake Village have gotten a big upgrade. The first phase of the park upgrade work has just about been completed. One question that has come up is about the use of wood chips — replacing the sand. In short, it’s to meet current ADA standards.
There are parks around the city that have had their play equipment upgraded including Russell Ranch, Berniece Bennett, and Three Springs. This is part of a park upgrade program that the city has put in place. Total cost for construction and equipment for the first phase at these three parks was $369,734, and the fiscal 2006-2007 park improvement program has been completed. In addition to the Canyon Oaks park, there are additional projects that the city is looking at as part of future capital improvement programs. The proposal for Canyon Oaks, which is a larger project, will shortly go before the City Council.
Those parks upgraded now include upgraded play equipment, with a wood chip material used instead of the previous sand and other materials.
When a city builds something new, or updates a facility, it has to abide by a variety of government regulations. This includes the Federal rules such as those set forth by the American Disabilities Act (ADA).
One of the things that the ADA requires that all playground equipment be handicap accessible. In the case of the play equipment, that means that a wheelchair needs to be able to get up next to the equipment so that the person in the chair can transfer onto the equipment to play.
There are only a couple of viable materials that meet these standards. One is a rubbery composite material called “resilient rubber surfacing”. The other is a specially designed wood chip material, which is what the city chose. Sand is not compliant with the ADA.
The reason for the choice is simple: cost. The composite material is so expensive to install, it alone would have exceeded the cost of the entire park upgrade. There are some other downsides as well such as stickiness of the material during hot weather. The vast majority of public park projects today have gone with wood chips as a result.
The wood chip material will continue to settle and break down some over time during a “break in” process.
As always, even when it was sand, the city encourages those playing on the equipment to wear closed-toe shoes when playing on the equipment or walking on the wood chip.
If you have any questions about the park, or want to give feedback to the city, I encourage you to call Audrey Brown at 818-706-1613.