Daily Progress, Jacksonville, TX

June 19, 2013

City dismantles nostalgic area playground citing various safety hazards

Amy Brocato Pearson
Jacksonville Daily Progress

JACKSONVILLE — Memorabilia to some, dangerous hazards to others.

But what the City of Jacksonville and some concerned residents can agree on is that something needed to be done to the decrepit playground equipment in Buckner Family Park.

Aurora Johnson was at the playground Tuesday at lunchtime with her three children in tow. The family was heading to swim at the Summers A. Norman Aquatic Center when the area resident (she said she lives "just outside" of city limits) walked her kids across the street to show them her old stomping grounds. What she found were holes full of loose dirt.

In recent days, the City of Jacksonville Public Works Department has removed a metal tee pee playhouse, a train climbing apparatus and a four-way 'teeter totter' with animal features.

The metal playground equipment, which City Manager Mo Raissi said was approximately 25 years old, was deemed to be a  "hazard" to area children.

"We inspected the equipment and it was found to be in a state of disrepair," said Public Works Director Will Cole. "We didn't think we could repair it with any success."

The metal on the equipment was thinning, Cole said, as well as broken, bent and jagged in some places.

Typically, if city property has value to it, it's put up for sale in public auction, Raissi said.

There was no salvageable value to the Buckner Family Park playground equipment, both city officials said.

Johnson said the artifacts were "memorabilia."

"They could have put them somewhere," she said.

The City follows guidelines set forth by the National Program for Playground Safety, (in addition to the Playground Safety Institute), as to playground maintenance, inspection and safety.

Section 3.4 of the Handbook for Public Playground Safety addresses sharp points, corners and edges and states, in part, "Sharp points, corners, or edges on any part of the playground or playground equipment may cut or puncture a child’s skin. Sharp edges can cause serious lacerations if protective measures are not taken. To avoid the risk of injury from sharp points, corners and edges:

• Exposed open ends of all tubing not resting on the ground

or otherwise covered should be covered by caps or plugs that cannot be removed without the use of tools.

• Wood parts should be smooth and free from splinters.

• All corners, metal and wood, should be rounded.

• All metal edges should be rolled or have rounded capping."

By all accounts, those of residents and city officials, the nostalgic playground equipment fell short of many of these safety standards.

Cole said that while the playground is inspected about once a week and seen by City employees who are mowing and maintaining grounds more often then that, the extent of the problems at the Buckner playground was brought to his attention last week.

"Once it's specifically brought to our attention, we have to address it," he said.

Two years ago, the City installed a safer playscape on the south end of the park. Five years ago, the City removed unsafe playground equipment in Lincoln Park and replaced it with fixtures up to safety standards.

"My kids even used all the play things there," Raissi said. "They said, 'Don't take it out, don't take it out.' But safety has to come first."