Playgrounds are free to use, but they’re far from free to build.
Terry Snyder, landscape architect for Vancouver’s Parks and Recreation Department, said it isn’t uncommon for a larger playground to ultimately cost more than $1 million, including tearing down old play equipment, surfacing, landscaping and equipment costs.
“It’s the surfacing that really drives up the cost,” he said. “Esther Short Park, just to give a sense to it, it was like $250,000 just for the surfacing.”
Snyder said synthetic materials can cost up to $40 per square foot, compared to just a few dollars for the same amount of wood chips.
Fundraising and donations go a long way. To fund the new playground at Marshall Park, the city partnered with playground advocacy nonprofit Harper’s Playground, which raised nearly $4 million for the park.
Harper’s Playground co-founder and Chief Play Officer G Cody QJ Goldberg said the money is more than just an expense, it’s an investment.
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“The term ‘expensive’ is loaded,” Goldberg said. “It is far more expensive to live in a community that has failed to provide adequate outdoor recreation for all its citizens in terms of the adverse health outcomes like obesity and depression and so forth that come with that lack of investment than it is to invest in a vibrant community.”
“Healthy parks that serve the entire population pay for themselves ten-fold with increased livability and social connection,” Goldberg said.