Safety concerns arise over $240K playground

District 4 Commissioner Rob Williamson announced Feb. 3 that kids will soon have a new playground to enjoy at the Navarre Sports Complex, located on High School Boulevard.

Williamson gave attendees of the Navarre Park improvements public meeting a sneak peek of the handicapped-accessible plan for the nearby sports complex, including what he said will be the county’s first zip line at a county-owned park.

The Board of County Commissioners today will decide whether or not to approve the project using District 4 recreation funds to purchase ADA compliant playground equipment in the amount of $238,973.33 from J.A. Dawson & Co., Inc.

Tammy Simmons, an administration services manager for Santa Rosa County who oversees county parks, recommended the purchase in a Feb. 4 memo to County Administrator Hunter Walker.

Simmons said a U.S. Communities contract approved by the Florida State Purchasing Authority could be utilized for the purchase. “Piggybacking” onto the existing contract prevents the county from having to take bids or gather quotes for the purchase.

According to Williamson, construction of a 12-by-24-foot pavilion and two picnic tables will bring the total costs for improvements to $240,923.33.

Williamson said he has been coordinating the effort with Navarre Youth Sports Association board members, who operate the complex, and in December 2014 developed a long-term plan to make safety improvements and other enhancements at the facility.

“We needed to add an additional passive park,” Williamson said, pointing out the new equipment would be geared for children ages 5 through 12.

“As a Certified Playground Safety Inspector and a Santa Rosa County taxpayer, I am deeply concerned about the safety of the playground,” Navarre resident Andrew Adams, said in a Feb. 4 email to Williamson, adding, “Zip lines are dangerous and should only be used in expertly supervised environments. Riders should be provided with an array of safety gear and receive specific instruction on use.”

Adams addressed the commission about the issue at the board’s Feb. 9 meeting, stating, “The zip line should be a fully supervised playground. Children will get on the top and will go all the way to the bottom. There are no brakes. If a child is hearing, vision or emotion impaired they can’t get out of the way. They will get mowed down.”

Additionally, Adams cited other concerns, including the risk for injury due to the height of a slide structure, the expense of providing safety surfacing for a large area, park security, lack of shade and existing limited wheelchair accessibility. Adams also complained that the public did not have an opportunity to provide input on the matter.

“Some of the existing equipment is in poor repair,” Adams said in a Feb. 9 email, adding, “My concern is that if maintenance as simple and inexpensive as periodically replacing swings is not done now … how can a significantly larger (requiring much more maintenance) playground be kept in safe, operational condition over its useful lifespan of 15 to 20 years?”

“I think that it’s good that (Adams) came today and brought up some safety concerns,” Williamson said, pointing out he had requested for the highest slide to be removed from the plan and for additional safety signage to be erected.

“This playground has been a part of our park improvement plan,” Darren Thomas, vice president of NYSA said at the Feb. 9 meeting. “We provide an excellent sports program but the facilities get used a lot.”

Thomas said about 2,000 children per year register for NYSA sports programs. “I’m happy to report that many of those projects are moving forward,” he said. “This playground that (Williamson) is talking about, we are very excited about. The existing playground that is there is very old,” Thomas said.

The Santa Rosa County Board of County Commission’s regular commission meeting starts at 9 a.m. at the Tiger Point Community Center, locate at 1370 Tiger Point Lane in Gulf Breeze.

As see in the Feb. 12 issue of Navarre Press. Subscribe online here.


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