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News / Clark County News

Advocate: Play sites in Vancouver are worth investing in

By Carlos Fuentes, Columbian staff writer
Published: August 19, 2023, 6:13am

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.

More in This Series

Playground designer Jane Tesner-Kleiner looks over the playground at Hough Elementary School on Wednesday morning. Bond measures in recent years have allowedVancouver Public Schools and Evergreen Public Schools to totally revamp elementary school playgrounds for both accessibility and diversity of options for play.Vancouver’s school playgrounds target ‘diversity of options’
For children, a school playground can be much more than a place to let out their wiggles each day.
Trees rise above a playground at DuBois Park in Vancouver. The playground, which has a wheelchair user-friendly disc swing, is not considered fully accessible due to the wood chip surface. At top, a disc swing hangs at the under-construction Marshall Park.The play’s the thing: Vancouver works to make its parks more accessible, fun for children of all abilities
Vancouver is home to more than 70 parks with play equipment, but until this year, none of them were fully accessible to children who use…
Workers install an artificial turf surface at Marshall Park. Though more expensive than wood chips, disability advocates say plastic turf is a key to making playgrounds more accessible.Advocate: Play sites in Vancouver are worth investing in
Playgrounds are free to use, but they’re far from free to build.

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.

“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.

Columbian staff writer