GUIZERIX: Gimme Shelter (at the playground)

Published 4:00 am Wednesday, June 7, 2023

The new canopy at Washington Street park looks fantastic.

It will provide much-needed shade for those using the space and adds a level of completeness to the once-open area. However, upon seeing the finished product, I was left with a question.

Why don’t we have similar coverings over our local playgrounds?

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As the parent of a toddler who frequently tells me “I can’t wait to go to the park, Mama!” I’d consider myself a regular in the playground circuit. Vicksburg is lucky to have an array of public playgrounds for children, but once the summer heat cranks up, the number of places to comfortably play goes down.

Glenwood Circle is a prime play place at almost any time of day, thanks to its ample tree cover. My little one can slide to her heart’s content without fear of blistering her thighs on the swings or burning her hands while steering her make-believe pirate ship. Letitia and Valley Park is also a great option for shaded playtime.

But just around the corner from Glennwood Circle, at Eisenhower and McArthur Park, there is no such shade provided. As a result, unless it’s early in the morning or later in the day, you’d be hard-pressed to find many people out there enjoying the facility.

The same is true for the recently improved Realty and Short Cherry Park. The new playground equipment is beautiful, but as we Southerners know, there are only about three months out of the year when it’s comfortable to be out and about.

I did a little research, and a playground sail shade can range anywhere from $3,000 to $30,000 depending on the commercial vendor and materials chosen. While this might seem like a large sum of money, it’s something that can protect our children not only from surface burns but also from harmful UV rays and inclement weather. Not only that, but lessening sun and weather exposure can also extend the life of equipment — perhaps if a sail shade or a similar solution is implemented at our local playgrounds, they would pay for themselves in a matter of years.

In addition to added safety and longevity of equipment, the implementation of a shade system would also lessen crowding at our local parks — if there were more desirable facilities around, we wouldn’t have to huddle together at the select few facilities that provide ample shade.

There are grants available to secure shade systems for playgrounds at a reduced cost. The American Academy of Dermatology’s shade structure grant has been awarded 488 times since 1999. Home Depot also offers a grant program for playground shades. Grants are also available at the federal level.

While this might just seem like the soapbox rant of a sun-averse mother, I do believe implementing shade structures at some of our local playgrounds would make a big difference in the health, wellness and happiness of Vicksburg’s children (and the people who love them).

Who knows — maybe someone with some real power agrees.