Bouncy new playground surfacing could keep kids safe

March 25, 2019
The playground is at 5900 Whittier Dr., Raleigh.

A new, rubbery playground surfacing is doing more than just putting a bounce in visitors’ steps -- it’s keeping kids safe.

Many communities are making upgrades to playgrounds to help keep play safe. At Cedar Falls Park in Chapel Hill, a crew used shredded rubber from old car tires to provide a springy surface under playground equipment.

“These rubberized surfaces are very, very expensive, but in many ways, they’re the best,” said Bill Webster, a development manager with Chapel Hill’s Parks and Recreation Department.

Webster said the rubber surface requires far less maintenance, as it may not need repair for at least 7 to 10 years.

The town has $85,000 reserved to rubberize two of their nine playgrounds.

“That’s eventually a goal to do with all our playgrounds,” Webster said.

Heba Salama, a playground mom, is all for it.

“I mean, kids are kids so they’re going to fall, so anything that can protect them from that is really appreciated,” Salama said.

Webster said it’s possible to go too far with playground safety.

“The last thing you want to is have something out here that is so safe that the kids would rather not use it,” Webster said.

Each year in the United States, emergency rooms treat more than 200,000 kids ages 14 and younger for playground injuries. Although state laws do not dictate public playground safety standards, Safe Kids North Carolina offers guidelines for playgrounds -- like avoiding hard surfaces, concrete or even soil and sand, which is the least preferred surface for wheelchair access.

″[Sand] has zero ADA accessibility,” Webster said.

Last but not least, nothing replaces adult supervision.

“It’s really important to be here with your kids and watch them, but if we can help keep them safe, then we’re all about it,” Salama said.