Playground Needs Disabilities Compliance

Industry | November 11, 2018

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BUZZARDS BAY — Another bump in the road has delayed the reopening of the playground area of Buzzards Bay Park.

At the Board of Selectmen meeting Tuesday, Town Counsel Robert Troy announced that the playground area does not comply with federal and state laws such as the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Architectural Barriers Act.

The information comes from an audit report of the playground by a certified playground safety inspector, commissioned by Troy after a child was injured in July while going down a slide in the splash pad area of the playground. The playground is currently closed.

The entire park reopened earlier this year after extensive renovations costing $2.3 million in Community Preservation Act funds.

The town did not provide the Times with a copy of the audit report, citing it as privileged information.

There are preliminary plans to study the design and reconfigure the playground so that it complies with the disabilities law, Troy said.

In addition, the town is pursuing legal remedies against the designers of the playground, he said.

Weston & Sampson designed the park and Green Acres Landscape and Construction Co. constructed it, said Selectman James Potter.

“It is just a hiccup,” said Selectwoman Judith Froman.

She said it is important that the park is looked at from every angle before it’s reopened.

“We got to make sure everything is done right, and safe,” she said.

The Buzzards Bay Park closure came only a little over a month after it was reopened to the public following the renovations and the installation of the splash pad area.

Problems arose even before the closure when Buzzards Bay Water District officials in June said that they did not receive formal invitations to meetings to plan the splash pad, and expressed concerns about the water usage at the facility. Town officials have since taken action to address those issues.

Now, reconfiguring the park to make it ADA compliant is another layer that town officials are working to remedy before the warmer months return.

At the grand reopening of the park, town officials had touted the investment as the impetus to bring more people and more business to the downtown Buzzards Bay Main Street.

“It was amazing to see the amount of people from other towns as well, not just Buzzards Bay and Bourne,” said Selectman Jared MacDonald.

The Board of Selectmen is trying to get the playground reopened for next spring, he added.

Selectman Peter Meier, chairman of the board, declined to comment, saying the issues are being addressed by the town’s legal and consultant team.

Federal laws require newly constructed playgrounds and those existing playgrounds that are altered to comply with a series of technical provisions for accessible play components and accessible routes, according to the United States Access Board. At the grand opening, Brandon Kunkel of Weston & Sampson told the Times that the new park is compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

“It is all about inclusion,” said Cathy Taylor, director of services at Cape Cod Organization for Rights of the Disabled. “No one needs to be separated out.”

Everything in the park has to have certain parts that are accessible, Taylor said.

If a playground is divided by ages, which the Buzzards Bay Park is, Taylor said that accessible play components should be mixed and age appropriate.

In addition, for every 16 inches of length the slope can only rise an inch, she said.

“Unless you have someone who has a wheelchair, you don’t realize a slope being a little too steep stops someone from joining in,” said Taylor. “It creates a big barrier. That’s why we have regulations and stick to things.”

– Follow Beth Treffeisen on Twitter: @BTreffeisenCCT