Concerns lead to repair of park equipment

The leg has rusted off the jungle gym in Durban Road Park.

The City has agreed to remove and relocate a roundabout in Rondebosch’s Keurboom Park to a more level location.

This follows complaints from several readers and a Tatler investigation of City play parks (“Danger at play parks”, Tatler, September 22) about faulty playground equipment which is putting southern suburbs children at risk.

The Keurboom Park roundabout was identified as a major point of contention after Hout Bay mother Julie Luyt’s daughter lost her footing and her leg got trapped under the apparatus in January. It took a fireman using the jaws-of-life to free her.

Rondebosch resident Joost van der Ploeg had a similar experience with his four-year-old nephew Max about a year ago.

In both instances, the unevenness of the ground on which the roundabout was located was cited as the problem, as this meant that the apparatus was higher on the one side than the other and if the child fell, their legs would be trapped as it spun round.

The Tatler investigation also uncovered rusting playground equipment and apparatus that had been badly bent.

Anda Ntsodo, Mayco member for community services, saw to it that several site visits took place since the investigation, and returned the results to the Tatler.

“The majority of play equipment in play parks in the city has been in place for more than 30 years and will understandably show signs of wear-and-tear. With a limited capital budget, City Parks is unable to replace play equipment as regularly as we would like to, and we therefore have to repair defective items whenever necessary,” Mr Ntsodo said.

“Park equipment is checked on a monthly basis and any defects are repaired immediately where possible. If any defects that cannot be repaired immediately present a real danger, the equipment will either be immobilised or dismantled until it can be repaired or replaced.”

One of the areas of concern raised by the investigation were the hard surfaces on which some of the playground equipment occurs. Patrick Uys, the owner Bokkie Playground, a manufacturer and supplier of playground equipment, had indicated that this should never occur at play parks.

“With regard to the issue of which type of surface is suitable,” Mr Ntsodo said, “the surface of choice in the past was some form of solid surface – either tar, concrete or gravel. In some cases the equipment has been installed on soft surfaces such as sand and grass, but these surfaces don’t stand up well against heavy traffic and deteriorate quickly into potholes and muddy puddles.

“The City started installing soft rubber matting under play equipment only recently but this is extremely expensive and vulnerable to vandalism. Where funds are available, rubber matting is being installed under play equipment.”

The City addressed several other concerns raised in the various southern suburbs parks.

A bent see-saw, which, it had been suggested, had been overloaded with children, had in fact been damaged by a private contractor during tree-felling operations. “The City is in the process of getting the contractor to replace the see-saw,” Mr Ntsodo said.

With respect to a worn tyre buffer under a see-saw in Rondebosch Park, Mr Ntsodo said although worn, the tyre was still affording the necessary shock absorption. However, he added, “The tyre will be replaced shortly”.

Rusted supports on a slide in Keurboom Park and the leg of a jungle gym in Durban Road Park were also pointed out. However, Mr Ntsodo said: “Although the supports are rusted on the two pieces of play equipment, they don’t pose an immediate risk. In the case of the jungle gym, there are seven more supports still securely attached to the ground and in the case of the slide also additional secure points of support.

“In these instances it is not deemed justified to remove the items and deprive children of their use. Most importantly, the areas which the children come into contact with are safe and secure.

These items are scheduled for repairs in the near future.”

Rusted steps to the train installation at the “Choo-Choo Park” in Claremont. Mr Ntsodo said the steps leading to the train platform were all in good condition with no corrosion. “The only rusted piece of metal is part of the body and situated behind the steps. It poses no or very little risk but it will be cut away.”

He said City Parks was taking “every reasonable step” to mitigate risks in its play parks but with more than 3 500 parks in the city, this was a “massive task”.

“Park users are requested to please report defective play equipment without delay. It is also every parent or caretaker’s responsibility to ensure that children do not use play equipment unsupervised. A shiny new slide or spinning roundabout has as much potential to cause harm as an old one if not used properly,” he said.

Mr Uys welcomed the City’s findings, saying he was “impressed they have responded positively”.

“I have lived in all parts of the country, and there is nowhere that has as many playgrounds as Cape Town. It is good that the municipality takes this seriously,” he said.

“I would like to point out a few things though. A municipality’s maintenance budget is higher than its procurement budget, which means there should be maintenance all the time. While I am glad they are acting on the roundabout and replacing equipment, I am a bit worried that they are not addressing the jungle gym.

“That piece of equipment should be cordoned off or replaced immediately. You have to ask why the one leg is rotting in the first place.

“The likelihood is that water got into the metal tube, which means that it has probably got into the other tubes inside the legs. They could also rot off at any time.”