NEWS FROM PARKS AND RECREATION
E-cigarettes Prohibited on Civic Center Property
During its regular meeting on April 16, 2015, the Parks and Recreation Commission passed a motion, 5 to 4 (1 absent), to revise Section 2. Unlawful Acts Generally (5) of the Grand Traverse County Parks and Recreation Commission Rules that govern County parks to prohobit e-cigarettes at the Civic Center. Section 2.(5) of the Park Rules now states:
[I]t is unlawful for a person or persons (5) To use tobacco or smoke at the Grand Traverse County Civic Center. As used in this rule, the word “smoke” means any of the following:
(a) using a cigarette, e-cigarette, cigar, pipe or vapors-tanks-mods or related product that contains tobacco, nicotine or any other related product that is lighted, burning or heated;
(b) lighting a cigarette, e-cigarette, cigar, pipe or vapors-tanks-mods or related product that contains tobacco, nicotine or any other related product;
(c) exhaling smoke or vapor from burning or heating tobacco, nicotine, or any other related product that is contained in a cigarette, e-cigarette, cigar, pipe or vapors-tanks-mods or related product.
Traverse City – After being closed since September 24, 2014, Kids Kove playground at the Grand Traverse County Civic Center Park is scheduled to be removed the week of May 4.
“This has been a long, emotional journey for our community, the Parks and Recreation Commission, and our staff,” said Kristine Erickson, Director of Grand Traverse County Parks and Recreation Department. “We are very sad to see the playground removed, but hopeful about the potential for another play structure of some sort on Civic Center grounds.” Built nearly 20 years ago as what many refer to as “a labor of love” involving nearly 2,000 community members, the playground evokes happy memories and sentimentality among residents who were part of the community-build and whose children and grandchildren have grown up playing at Kids Kove. Erickson says that the Parks and Recreation staff and commissioners “do feel the community’s pain, and we hope for a time of healing once the structure is removed.”
Kids Kove was closed by commissioner consensus last fall as a precautionary measure, after soil samples analyzed by the MSU Soil and Plant Nutrient Laboratory indicated elevated arsenic levels in the wood chip ground covering. Results were 19.9 per million, an amount less than the DEQ’s established limit of 37 parts per million for recreational areas, yet higher than the DEQ limit for residential areas of 7.9 parts per million. Like so many other wood playgrounds built at the time, the 19-year-old Kids Kove structure is comprised of wood treated with Chromated Copper Arsenate (CCA) for preservation purposes.
To learn the depth and extent of the arsenic contamination, in October 2014, Parks and Recreation arranged for additional, more comprehensive, and deeper soil samples to be taken by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ). Results of those samples all were below the residential limit of 7.9 parts per million. After compiling all of the soil sample results, the data indicated that the wood chips covering the play area absorbed any arsenic produced from the CCA-treated lumber.
“Unfortunately, at that point, it was not just a matter of replacing the wood chips to reopen the playground,” said Erickson. County Facilities Management Grounds Coordinator, Paul Johnson, also a Certified Playground Safety Inspector who routinely inspects Kids Kove, identified and expressed his concerns to Parks and Recreation Commissioners about an excess of safety hazards at the aging playground. In response, commissioners directed the Parks and Recreation Director to hire an outside, independent Certified Playground Safety Inspector, Bruce Dudek of Jack Golden and Associates from the Detroit area.
During a special meeting devoted to Kids Kove in October 2014, Dudek confirmed to commissioners that the Kids Kove structure does not meet today’s national playground safety standards. His report cites rotted posts, potential head entrapments, lack of or insufficient grab bars and railings, lack of appropriate safety barriers in elevated sections, deteriorated safety surfacing, and areas where children can hide. Some of the safety issues resulted from wear and tear on the structure. Others are a result of national safety standards for public playgrounds becoming more stringent in the years since Kids Kove was built.
During the October 2014 meeting, Parks and Recreation Commissioners also passed a motion to hand over any fundraising efforts for a refurbished or new Kids Kove playground to the Kids Kove Friends committee, should it accept the undertaking. Comprised of some of the original leaders of the playground’s community-build nearly 20 years ago, and formed in support of saving the playground, the committee formally accepted this offer during the Parks and Recreation Commission’s regular meeting in December 2014.
During that same meeting on December 18, 2014, commissioners upheld a November 2014 decision for Kids Kove to remain closed until “such a time the experts can say with confidence that the safety hazards have been addressed.” After the Kids Kove Friends Committee shared its plan to seek funding for refurbishing rather than replacing the playground, the commission further voted during its December 2014 meeting to address the safety hazards at Kids Kove and to approve any design and plan for a refurbished playground from the Kids Kove Friends Committee.
In December 2014 and again in January 2015, commissioners asked the Parks Director and Facilities Management staff to research the costs of correcting the playground’s safety issues, so that the commission could determine the feasibility of reopening the playground while Kids Kove Friends raised funds for refurbishment, quoted at $150,000.
In January and February 2015, Johnson researched costs for correcting the safety issues identified at Kids Kove, and Erickson interviewed several playground development companies about the potential for correcting safety issues in a CCA-treated wood playground. Other than Leathers and Associates, Inc., playground developers told Erickson they did not provide quotes for correcting safety issues or refurbishing CCA-treated wood structures, because of the remaining wood.
Carl Pietila, CPSI, Superior Play, L.L.C., told Erickson that even if safety issues were fully addressed, “the playground would never comply with national playground safety standards, because of the wood.” Pietila specifically pointed out Section 4. Materials and Manufacture, 4.1.3 of the American Society for Testing and Materials’ Standard Consumer Safety Performance Specification for Playground Equipment for Public Use (ASTM F 1487) handbook, which states, “Chromated copper arsenate (CCA), creosote, pentachlorophenol, tribute tin oxide, and surface coatings that contain pesticides shall not be used for playground equipment.”
All playgrounds for public use in the United States are required to comply with the standards established by the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) and the U.S. Consumer Product and Safety Commission (CPSC), which publishes the Handbook for Public Playground Safety (CPSC Publication 325).
Marc Leathers, President of Leathers and Associates, Inc., the original developer and manager of the Kids Kove community-build, interpreted Section 4.3.1 of the ASTM guidelines differently than Pietila and other playground developers. His cost quote for refurbishing Kids Kove and in a March 2015 e-mail to Parks and Recreation commissioners states that the playground can be renovated to comply with current CPSC and ASTM guidelines and standards.
During its March 19, 2015 regular meeting, after considering the research conducted by the Parks Director and the Facilities Management Grounds Coordinator, including the two different interpretations of Section 4.3.1 of the ASTM guidelines, Parks and Recreation commissioners passed a motion to remove Kids Kove. The deciding factor, according to Erickson, was when Johnson drew commissioners’ attention to Section 408.686, Item (2) of Michigan’s Playground Equipment Safety Act 16 of 1997 (effective May 1, 1998), which states, “For the maintenance, repair, and upkeep of public playground equipment that existed before the effective date of this act, the standards required by section 4 shall apply only to the extent that such application is possible without requiring substantial alteration, removal, or replacement of the existing equipment.”
Section 4, found under Section 408.684 Public Playground Equipment; Standards of the state’s Playground Equipment Safety Act, states that public playground equipment in Michigan must comply with CPSC and ASTM safety guidelines and standards. A refurbishment of Kids Kove to bring it up to safety standards would, Johnson explained, substantially alter the existing equipment, causing the playground to remain out of compliance with national playground safety standards, because CCA-treated wood would remain.
“This was a difficult final decision for the commission,” said Erickson, “following the constant unfolding of new facts and information, presented for consideration by commissioners every single month since the soil samples were taken last September.”
Since the Parks and Recreation Commission decided to have Kids Kove removed, the Parks and Recreation Department has received calls and e-mails from community members about the possibility of retrieving fence pickets with names of community members who contributed time and money to the playground when it was built. “While we would love to return the pickets,” said Erickson, “there are too many questions about the risk of arsenic exposure, especially if the wood were to be cut, burned, or altered.” State Department of Environmental Quality and County Health Department officials advised on the matter, said Erickson, and support her decision.
The pickets and the community who so generously gave of their time and money, Erickson assured, will never be forgotten. She explained that Parks commissioners agreed with her recommendation to make a plan to preserve the etched fence posts, handprints, and signage. “We will remove the pickets and sign, store them in a County facility and, once a plan is made, safely incorporate them into a memorial to Kids Kove on Civic Center property. We will always remember and appreciate the precious gift of Kids Kove.” According to Erickson, the sidewalk with community members’ names will remain in place, untouched.
County Facilities Management staff, along with volunteer groups from SEEDS and Home Depot will team up to remove the playground and the wood chips throughout the week of May 4. Erickson worked closely with Facilities Management staff, the County Health Department, and the DEQ to ensure that the plan for removal is safe in every way. “The county’s grounds crew will provide constant oversight of the volunteers, who are required to sign daily individual waivers, use proper tools as assigned, wear personal protective gear at all times, and follow our plan.”
Once the playground is removed, Erickson says she is optimistic about the healing process and a fresh start. “It will open a door for us to begin to look toward the future.” The Parks and Recreation Commission’s Business Development Team subcommittee is charged with writing a business plan for the Civic Center. Using the three-year-old Civic Center Park Master Plan as a guide, the team will examine every aspect of the property, and make recommendations for additions, improvements, and changes to the park and its services to best serve the community. Erickson explained that, in anticipation of the 20-year projected life of Kids Kove, the master plan was written to include a recommendation to replace the playground. “If funding were to become available, it is possible that a new play structure will be part of the Civic Center’s future. Right now,” said the Director, “the possibilities for creative projects that could positively impact our community seem endless.”
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