‘It’s about inclusivity’: City of Madison invests $1 million in playground improvements per year

The city is working on several playground replacement projects throughout Madison, with a budget of a little more than $1 million this year for the improvements.

It’s part of a project to “replace and upgrade existing playgrounds to meet industry standards and to ensure recreational amenities are accessible to the greatest extent possible,” according to the 2019 capital city budget.

Brittingham Park saw improvements a couple years ago, including a poured-in-place rubber playground surface to improve safety and accessibility for those with mobility issues.

“There’s something for everybody here,” parkgoer Zachary Redding said. “My kids love the monkey bars and the slides, of course.”

The equipment looks different from what Redding was used to as a kid.

“You don’t see a lot of sharp edges anymore,” he said.

Of course, raising the bar costs money.

“We’re working toward replacing 10 to 17 playgrounds per year,” said Mike Sturm, a landscape architect with the city’s park division. “That’s where the roughly $1 million budget request comes from.”

Sturm said the yearly budget has been consistent since 2013, when an effort to replace about 120 of the 180 playgrounds in the system began.

This year, that includes Segoe Park, recently completed, and Lucia Crest Park, with work still underway. About seven other playground projects are still ongoing, according to the city’s website.

“It’s a standard of life item, I think, for park users, Madison residents,” Sturm said.

He said the city holds at least two neighborhood meetings to get input on playground updates, and more options for nature-based play options like boulders and logs have recently emerged.

The latest round of upgrades comes after a significant investment in the 1990s.

“The service life of playgrounds is roughly 20 to 25 years,” Sturm said.

Playgrounds can be replaced sooner if an inspector deems it necessary to improve safety or accessibility.

“It’s about inclusively,” Sturm said. “It’s really about making sure all park users feel welcome and that they have opportunities to play together. It’s everyone from the younger generations to the grandparents.”

Upgrades make getting to the park less of a reach for those who may have had a hard time.

“It’s nice having the accessible portions now,” Redding said. “You see kids come here with chairs or their mobility devices, and they can get in on the action, too.”

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