Demolishing and Rebuilding Playgrounds

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA – 1993) requires all playgrounds to offer equipment, materials and designs that provide children with disabilities, whether physical or cognitive, the same play opportunities as other children. These are now known as “inclusive playgrounds.” The very latest trend extends that philosophy even further to include caregivers, who themselves may be partially disabled and so may not be able to easily access traditional, non-inclusive playgrounds.

Further, the ADA requires that playgrounds meet extensive safety standards to help protect even non-disabled children from unnecessary danger. Why, you may ask? Well, according to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), emergency departments treated more than 200,000 children ages 14 and younger for playground-related injuries in 2001. That number is now around 300,000. Some of these playground injuries are life-threatening and/or result in broken bones and/or paralysis. Clearly, this degree of risk is unacceptable for our children to have to live with.

Just as an illustration, here are a few of the health and well-being hazards that can often be found at legacy playgrounds:

  • Crush and Shearing Points: Anything that could crush, or shear limbs should not be accessible to children on a playground. Crush and shear points can be caused by parts moving relative to each other or to a fixed part during a normal use cycle, such as a seesaw.
  • Entanglement and Impalement: Projections on playground equipment should not be able to entangle children’s clothing nor should they be large enough to impale.
  • Strings and ropes: Drawstrings on the hoods of jackets, sweatshirts, and other upper body clothing can become entangled in playground equipment, and can cause death by strangulation.
  • Head entrapment: Head entrapment is a serious concern on playgrounds, since it could lead to strangulation and death. A child’s head may become entrapped if the child enters an opening either feet first or head first.
  • Partially bound openings and angles: Children can become entrapped by partially bound openings, such as the points on fencing around a fort (if the angle is less than 55 degrees).
  • Sharp Points, Corners, and Edges: 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.
  • Suspended Hazards: Children using a playground may be injured if they run into or trip over suspended components (such as cables, wires, ropes, or other flexible parts) connected from one piece of the playground equipment to another or hanging to the ground.
  • Tripping Hazards: Play areas should be free of tripping hazards (i.e., sudden change in elevations) to children who are using a playground. Two common causes of tripping are anchoring devices for playground equipment and containment walls for loose-fill surfacing materials.

Across the country, many or most local playgrounds, many of which were built a long time ago, simply do not meet these ADA standards. Tinkering around the edges will not cut it. Meeting the ADA’s extensive safety and inclusion standards require complete playground demolition and rebuilding. This means “starting over from scratch.” In such cases, it is extremely important to choose a provider with extensive, long-term expertise in playground demolition and playground rebuilding.

It can mean making the playground area significantly larger (to accommodate wheelchairs), selecting new and different, rubberized ground surfaces (to attenuate fall impacts), selecting radically redesigned play equipment (with reduced hazards from being cut, snagged, stuck, etc.) and many other important changes. But the very first decision is to locate an expert in playground demolition, redesign, and rebuilding.

Playground demolition involves the removal of any existing equipment, surfacing and surrounding items on your recreational area. Through our years of experience, we are familiar with the permit processes of municipalities in the tri-state area which keeps our demolition projects on time. To provide peace-of-mind to the community around your site, we follow environmental safety guidelines during the demolition process. Picerno-Giordano manages the entire process; this encompasses all site preparation including playground demolition services, playground excavation services, and playground grading services.