The issue of playground safety came to light in April when the story of a young boy, injured by razor blades at a park in Philadelphia, went national.
The story hit close to home earlier this month, however, when stories began to break about screws being found on a playground in Oak Lawn.
Vandals apparently had pierced the playground equipment at a popular park, putting many children at risk for serious injuries.
Each year, more than 200,000 children are injured on America’s playgrounds, according to the National Program for Playground Safety.
Locally, the Batavia Park District does its part to ensure children’s safety by conducting regular inspections and by utilizing a “Park Watch Program.”
The Batavia Park District crews maintain 40 parks and 26 playground structures across nearly 400 acres. In order to maintain a high safety standard, the district employs two staff members who are certified playground safety inspectors.
Across the country, only 7,000 people hold a CPSI designation.
Gary Motycka, facility trades supervisor, and Nick Giandonato, trades crew leader, have 17 years of combined experience and playground construction knowledge. They conduct monthly safety inspections of all playgrounds.
In addition, each full-time park technician has been trained to inspect playgrounds for concerns or issues.
Crews also inspect the safety mulch under and around playgrounds weekly.
During their inspections, Motycka and Giandonato conduct a thorough review of each park, from safety signage at the entrance to a park, to every nut and bolt on the playground structure. Every park gets inspected every month.
After the incident in Oak Lawn, Eric Lacher, director of parks and properties, held a staff meeting to review safety standards and to inform all part-time and seasonal workers about the importance of park safety.
“The entire crew was very responsive, and everyone continues to make park and playground safety a priority,” Lacher said.
In addition to the regular safety inspections, the Batavia Park District launched a Park Watch Program several years ago.
The purpose of the program is to give residents a convenient way to report vandalism or other issues in the parks. It also gives residents an opportunity to help protect their investment in the parks.
The Park Watch Program allows patrons to remain anonymous by calling the “Bruce the Spruce” hotline to report issues – such as graffiti or damaged equipment – at 630-879-5235, ext. SAFE (7233). This allows parks crews to respond quicker and more efficiently. If a resident witnesses vandalism in a park, he or she is encouraged to call 911.
“We have a lot of great parks and playgrounds in our district,” Lacher said. “I am proud of the work our crews do to keep the parks clean and safe, and I’m confident that patrons will have an enjoyable visit.”
For information about the Park Watch Program, visit www.bataviaparks.org or call 630-879-5235.
• Kari Felkamp is director of marketing and public relations for the Batavia Park District. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.