By Nikki Jamieson
Sunny South News
The community park in Iron Springs will be getting new swings and safety surfacing.
During their regular Aug 15 meeting, Lethbridge County council discussed upgrades to the Iron Springs Community Playground.
This year, the Iron Springs Community Association had applied for a Municipal Reserve grant to upgrade the local park, which is on county-owned property. The swing at the Iron Springs Community Playground has reached the end of its life-cycle and needs replacing, and it is also proposed that the county upgrades the safety surfacing and border protection of the playground, along with adding two benches and a picnic table.
“The old swing at the Iron Springs Park, it’s done, it’s probably vintage 1950 or 60. The life-cycle is done,” said Gary Secrist, supervisor of agriculture services for the county.
“While we’re in there, we also want to make the safety surfacing right. It’s still good for a few more years, but we feel we might as well make it good for 20 years, then it is done.”
After consultation with the Community Association, it was decided that the project would be best managed by county staff.
The county had previously approved a Land Trust Reserve grant to the Iron Spring Community Association to upgrade some of the play equipment in the park in 2012. However, the project took longer than expected, and it was finally completed in 2018. The county did not manage that project.
The upgrades to the park will cost $18,500, with funds coming from the Municipal Reserve Fund. The park upgrades would allow them to comply with current Canadian Playground Safety Institute Standards and ensure that Municipal Reserve funds are used and managed appropriately by the county, for county projects.
Coun. Morris Zeinstra asked why they considered the life cycle of the swing done, whether it was slated for a certain number of years or if it was not working anymore.
“There’s a couple of reasons. It’s still safe, but we don’t want to wait to the point where it’s unsafe,’ said Secrist. “We had to replace the bearing hangers on the swings, and it’s a painted swing, it’s got the old blue swing. We want to upgrade so everything looks fresh, and than of course the safety surfacing is the key here. So while we do the safety surfacing, we would like to fix up the swing as well.
“Swings and playground equipment is not something you want to wait on until it becomes unsafe. The liability of injury to a child, that’s not something we would want to accept.”
Zeinstra said he heard Secrist’s concerns, but asked who determines whether a swing is past it’s lifespan, adding it didn’t make sense to him. Secrist replied that the Canadian Playground Safety Institute sets the standards they abide by for playground equipment, noting that a county employee recently took a four-day course with them.
“Every month, we go through these playgrounds and we decide what’s safe and what needs to be upgraded,” said Secrist. “You can hang onto the swing longer and some of those upgrades are fine, but it doesn’t look current. I mean if you look at playgrounds in the city and other places, this swing does not look that good in my mind to current standards. It’s just outdated.”
Coun. Klass Vander Veen asked why the proposed upgrades cost $18,500. Secrist said that that redoing the safety surfacing was a large chunk of the budget, as trucking in peat gravel was expensive, they have to redo the border system and benches cost around $1,500 for a quality bench.
“We’ve gone past the days where we just go down to the hardware store and put up a wooden bench. There’s liability, and they have to be safe, to meet a standard.”
Secrist said that about 20 years ago, an insurance broker went through all the equipment in the county, and demanded that some of it be taken out as the liability on them was too great and they wouldn’t be insured. A lot of the the equipment in places such as Iron Springs were taken away and wasn’t replaced because the county didn’t have the funds at the time to replace them.
“We’ve gone past the days where we just go down to the hardware store and put up a wooden bench. There’s liability, and they have to be safe, to meet a standard,” said Secrist. “You can tack things together, make it last longer if that’s your wish, but we want to move forward with new fresh looking parks.”
CAO Ann Mitchell said that phase one of asset management was complete, and they were moving on to phase two, in which park equipment replacement and upgrades would be folded into it, and they’ll have a schedule of when things needed to be replaced, which Secrist confirmed.
Vander Veen noted that even if they upgraded the equipment, the liability would still be there, and asked if it wouldn’t be better to hand the property over to the community association. Secrist said that in his mind, it would be better for the municipality to hold onto the parks they provide for their citizens.
Coun. Tory Campbell said he agreed with Secrist, and they should “hold it to a standard” that they feel comfortable with. Coun. Steve Campbell noted that most of the equipment in the county’s park are 40-50 years old, and it was about “taking some pride in what we have” and creating some enjoyment for kids.
Vander Veen asked where the money from the Municipal Reserve fund comes from, to which Secrist replied that they come from when subdivision occurs, and people provide funds for the Municipal Service funds in lieu of park land.
Council passed a motion to approve up to $18,500 in upgrades to the Iron Springs Community Playground with funds to be allocated from the Municipal Reserve Fund.