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Not your grandpa's playground

Centennial Park’s first playground ready for Blues & BBQ festival
Joel Omar Reyes dumps a load of a shredded rubber and liquid epoxy compound at the new playground in Centennial Park in North Liberty as Daniel Reyes (at right) levels the material. The composition provides a soft yet durable play surface. The $200,000 playground opened Monday, July 9, just in time for Blues & BBQ. (photo by Chris Umscheid)

NORTH LIBERTY– Playground design has come a long way. Forty years ago, kids played on jungle gyms and monkey bars installed on asphalt pads or surrounded by various sizes of gravel. Later, bits and pieces of shredded tires were layered around the appliances, cushioning young bodies from the inevitable falls. More recently, other materials such as wood chips were placed to provide a softer surface.
Centennial Park’s first playground, which opened Monday, July 9, features not only brand-new equipment (including Americans with Disability Act (ADA) compliant features), but also a new way of creating the play surface. Instead of wood chips, which have become the de-facto standard in North Liberty’s parks, the new playground has a soft rubber composition, which is several inches thick.
Shredded rubber mixed with a liquid epoxy hardener was applied over a compacted gravel base Saturday and Sunday, June 30 and July 1. The material, mixed onsite, consists of two layers: the base, which is black and at least three inches thick; and the top coat, made from the same material but colored blue and green. Parks Director Guy Goldsmith chose the material over wood chips for several reasons, including low maintenance. Wood chips need frequent attention to re-cover bare spots, for example.
According to Goldsmith, the $200,000 project was to have been completed ahead of the Fourth of July; however, recent heavy rains delayed it. The playground has since opened, just five days ahead of the 12th annual Blues & BBQ festival Saturday, July 14.
The new installation will soon be joined by a unique climbing playground, which will feature “performance boulders.” Goldsmith anticipates the pieces to arrive from Colorado Monday, July 23, to be installed throughout the week.