FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                   

Contact:   John Yarbrough, Lee County Parks & Recreation, (941) 461-7410




FORT MYERS, Fla. (July 30, 2002) – Lee County’s Parks & Recreation Department takes playground safety seriously.  So much so, in fact, that the county has built or replaced all of its playgrounds in the last 12 years (since 1990) to meet stringent safety standards.  The latest playground – a new one costing $260,000 (plus amenities) at Buckingham Community Park – will have its ribbon cutting Wednesday, Aug. 7 at 11 a.m. 

In addition, the county’s Parks & Recreation Department has three employees who are nationally certified as Playground Safety Inspectors through the National Playground Safety Institute (NPSI).  To become certified, the applicant completes an intensive six-week, self-study program concentrating on playground history, maintenance procedures, playground design, risk management and safety documentation, legal standards, accident and death statistics, and the role of play in a child’s development.  This is followed by two days of instruction by NPSI certified trainers.  The applicant must then pass a rigid standardized test. 

The county maintains playgrounds in many of its community and regional parks.  It does not operate city or school playgrounds.  Lee County Parks and Recreation’s playgrounds are maintained daily, with documented inspections performed by supervisors weekly or monthly, depending on amount of use.  An audit (detailed inspection) is done once by the Playground Safety Inspectors with follow-ups after significant redesigns and/or on a periodic rotating basis.  Some of the materials that now are being used to increase safety include: 

§         Resilient surfacing underneath the structures, such as the rubberized surface and shredded tire fall areas used at the Lakes Park Playground.  While this is more expensive, it has made the play areas safer.

§         Plastic playground equipment instead of metal, which prevents contact burns in the Florida heat.

§         ADA accessibility, either through engineered wood fiber mulch, rubberized tiles or poured in place surfaces.

§         Playgrounds standards met: American Society for Testing & Materials and Consumer Product Safety Comm. 

New and replaced playgrounds installed in the last several years include, Buckingham Community Park, Phillips Park on Pine Island, Lakes Regional Park, Terry Park, the Lee County Sports Complex, Three Oaks Community Park, North Fort Myers Community Park, Bonita Beach Park and Matlacha Park.  The county plans to replace playgrounds at Judd Park, Harlem Heights Park and Mary Moody Park next year.  The department’s certified Playground Safety Inspectors are Mike Mulligan, Debbie Derums and Ed McIntyre. 

Lee County’s Parks & Recreation Department maintains and operates 3,500 acres of developed park land, 14 centers, 9 pools, five boat ramps, three Gulf beach parks, one lakefront beach, 76 beach accesses, 60 tennis courts, 73 ballfields, and 13 preserves.  The department also manages the more than 7,500 acres of environmentally sensitive lands the county has purchased in the last five years through its Conservation 2020 Program.  Its fiscal year 2002 operating budget is $16.2 million.  The Parks System gained national accreditation last year and is a 2002 National Gold Medal Award Finalist.  Note to reporters:  If you would like to follow one of the inspectors on a playground inspection this week, please coordinate with Barbara Manzo at 461-7412.