Kenora City Council has put safety concerns at Garrow Park ‘on hold’, as the decision will be deferred to newly-elected councillors in the fall.
Last month, Shauna DeGagne made a deputation to city council on behalf of concerned families, saying that the new engineered wood fibres used as a ground cover in the playground are dangerous to youth – causing splinters and infections.
The following week, council voted to look into replacing the reportedly-dangerous wood chips at Garrow Park with artificial turf, with an estimated cost of $75,000. Now, current councillors have voted to place the issue on hold, and defer the project to the next batch of city councillors - to give the city's Handicap Accessbility Committee time to evaluate the needs of the community, and to look for the best-possible solution for residents.
“With the municipal elections coming up, it’s silly season right now. We’re in a lame-duck period, and we’re taking a time-out,” said Mayor Canfield.
“These wood chips are out there in over 250 playgrounds. They work fine in other places. Are they the best option? No they’re not. But it comes down to the bottom line – how much can you afford? How much do you want to put out? We thought about the artificial turf, but there’s problems with that too. The new council will have to make a decision.”
A report from the city’s Parks and Facilities Division says that the current wood fibres are specifically engineered for playgrounds, and are free from any hazardous elements. The fibres cost the city $2.15 per square foot, for a total of just over $5,000. The city reminds the public that proper footwear should be worn on and near the playground.
The city’s Accessibility Advisory Committee previously recommended that a rubberized surface be put in place, instead of the wood fibres. Council noted that replacing the fibres with sand could have been a temporary solution, although, Canfield says that sand is not considered to be an accessible material – as it can be a pain for those with mobility issues.
The issue, is that the new Garrow Park playground was built with funds from a grant that was to ensure an accessible playground was built. So replacing the wood chips with sand would have been counter-intuitive. Concerned families added that the wood chips are not accessible either. By technical definition they are, but in practice, they say that the fibres can also cause problems for those with mobility issues.