Fall 2011

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This is the 5-12-year-old play area in the Kids Konnection playground in Billerica, MA. Photo by Sandra Libby projects was great. The playground that my daughter was MyPlayground Story By Sandra Libby A ABOUT 12 YEARS AGO my daughter Megan was almost 2 years old and we were enjoying going to the local playground, Kid's Konnection, located in the center of our town, Billerica, MA. We were sitting on the fire engine pre- tending to drive. This was an old structure with wooden planks that had an open plat- form with a steel frame around the outside. Suddenly my daughter got up and ran down the plank to the end. I knew right then that she was headed for the fire pole, that she would not be able to reach it and I feared that I would never make it to her in time. Sure enough, she fell on her face in the sand and bumped her head on the pole. As I consoled her and began to look around, it was clear this playground needed some attention. Our mother's group, Mom's and Tot's, just might be the team of par- ents for the job. We formed the Friends of Billerica Recreation and began getting advice from local sales representatives and writing grants. After several years of volun- teering, I realized that I loved playgrounds and wanted to do this for a career. Getting certified as a playground safety inspector really opened my eyes. Also, getting to know all the companies in New England helped. Doing business with a local company that comes to us and is available to meet our needs seemed important too. On-the-job experience learning about writing RFPs, doing bids and working on numerous local This shows the part of the 2-5-year-old play area in the Kids Konnection play- ground in Billerica, MA. Photo by Sandra Libby 24 PLAYGROUND MAGAZINE FALL 2011 hurt on was being overseen by the Billerica Recreation Department. However, like many sites, it was initially put in and paid for by volunteers, so there wasn't a person trained or assigned to provide for the maintenance. They decided to hire me four hours a week to maintain all five of the town's play- grounds. One of the main reasons this was done was to cover liability as work was being done. It is important to have a CPSI on your staff and covered by your policy or for them to have their own coverage, which can get very expensive. To set up our program, we turned to the book Playground Safety is No Accident by Kenneth Kutska. This book was an invalu- able resource and provided that link from the CPSI exam to practical applications on our sites. We began by establishing policies and procedures and spelling out how we do everything. We have requirements for companies and the equipment we purchase, requirements for installers and a full main- tenance plan with audits, inspections, site checks and plans for dealing with all issues. Finally we conduct safety education when we can in the community. About three years ago our playground plans were put to the test. A young girl was hurt near the playground—not on the equipment, but nearby. The end result has been that, since we had all this documenta- tion which clearly outlines our plans, the town has been able to directly show "due diligence" in how it manages the site. Also, immediately after the incident, we came together as a team and were able to quickly address the situation. As things go, a large grant was received right away and a donation from a local company came in because of the incident. This addressed this issue and others, which helped everyone. Unfortunately, accidents do happen that are beyond our control, but the town was not at fault. At this time, as the Town of Billerica's playground coordinator, I spend 15 hours a week developing and maintaining the

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