Council Approves Improvements For Elgin City Park

With options somewhat limited, the Elgin City Council voted last week to replace two areas of neglected and compacted sand at Elgin City Park with recycled rubber crumbs.
In doing so, the council will be taking advantage of a grant which pays for one-half of the crumbs’ cost. Despite the grant monies, the decision was not an easy one for the council. City Tree Board member and Young ‘N Lively member Connie Dvorak passed out photos of the current state of the disrepair (edging and weeds) of the area and spoke briefly with the council concerning plusses and minuses of the options available with the recycled crumbs and sand being the only two they would seriously consider.
With the City of Petersburg recently adding the recycled rubber crumbs and the kid’s play area at Pope John/St. Boniface having it, Dvorak was able to “test” it out.  “It is a real good cushion, I walked around in there (St. Boniface) and it does feel really cushiony,” Dvorak reported. “And there aren’t any weeds in it.” Miller read from a city’s insurance company report stating that the “current surfacing of sand around the playground equipment does not provide a cushion in the event of a fall. The zoning around the playground equipment should be provided with a loose-fill surfacing material such as sand, pea gravel, engineered wood fibers, shredded recycled rubber mulch, wood mulch or wood chips.” The report then referred them to review the options in the US Consumer Product Safety Commission’s publication Public Playground Safety Handbook for guidance.
“I not here to say that sand is just absolutely a horrible thing, its not” concluded Dvorak. “It would be okay if it was deep enough and if weeds didn’t grow out of it. I know there are some concerns that people might have about the rubber –  I’ve talked to a couple of people that liked it and then I’ve talked to a couple of people that are worried about it. None of us really know all that much about it (recycled rubber).” Elgin resident Janet Koinzan spoke up, saying that she had talked with the kids and “a lot said they like the sand, it feels good on their toes”.
As the council began to discuss their options, the question of maintenance of the sand seemed to become the deciding factor on which way the council would ultimately vote.
Council members agreed that should sand remain in those play areas, regular maintenance including tilling at least once a year and spraying for weeds would need to be implemented in addition to keeping the proper depth of the sand for safety reasons. They discussed hiring the sand maintenance out. Councilwoman Shirley Nissen said, “we keep overloading Donnie (Poulsen) and Randy (Henn).  They’ve been working on water issues.” Councilman Kenny Jochum expressed his concern that children would put the rubber crumbs in their mouth. Dvorak did point out that the crumbs would be used in the two areas where older children play.
This past June, the city along with the Young ‘N Lively group built a fenced in play area for toddlers. That area (20’ by 20’ with a couple of toddler play structures) will remain filled with sand. Councilman Don Mackel said, “If we can’t get anybody to maintain the sand, then we might as well go with it (crumbs)”.
After one motion to purchase the recycled rubber crumbs, liner and edging failed (Mackel and Kittelson voting yes, Jochum no and Nissen abstaining), they continued discussion since the deficiencies pointed out by their insurance company had to be addressed.
After weighing the maintenance concerns and considering the grant monies available, the council entertained a second motion to purchase the crumbs, liner and edging. On this vote, the motion passed unanimously.
Sterling West from Gothenburg (the initial company who came to Elgin, measured the play areas and made recommendations concerning the crumbs) was awarded the job.