Sand to be Replaced with Turf at School Playgrounds

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BAY COUNTY-- Sand at local playgrounds may soon be a thing of the past. Bay District School officials are replacing the sand to make the playgrounds usable for more people. The sand playgrounds don't meet the guidelines set-out by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

"I don't think there should be a playground that is not accessible to all students," local ADA Liaison Pam Dorwarth said. Dorwarth has had limited mobility for more than 20 years. So she can relate to a frustrated child who can't get onto the playground with their friends.

Now Bay District School officials are removing all of the sand from their playgrounds and trading up for mulch or artificial turf, to meet the Americans with Disabilities Act playground standards.

One of Margaret K. Lewis school's 2 playgrounds is ADA complaint. MKL serves 150 kids with cognitive or physical disabilities, half with mobility needs. It has three wheelchair accessible swings and wood chips instead of sand.

"Rolling a child in a wheelchair in the wood chips is difficult, but I would say rolling a child in a wheelchair on the sand is much more difficult," Margaret K. Lewis Principal Lori Hast said.

District officials plan to make it even easier at some schools, replacing the sand with artificial turf.

"Basically it's the turf that you see on artificial football fields. People use it in their backyards, on the DYI shows," Bay District Schools Facilities Department Paul Holland said.

However, Holland says the upgrades won't happen over night. He said, "We are not going to go out there and make all of them ADA compliant, but not today or tomorrow. If the millage increases or anything, thing like this would help pay for the ADA compliance."

Holland says it will cost about $65,000 each to get the playground up to ADA standards. Mowat Middle School and Cherry Street Elementary will likely be the first two schools to see changes.

Sand runs about $6 a square foot, wood chips around $10 a square foot, and artificial turf about $14 a square foot.