City report calls for immediate replacement of four playgrounds

James Isbister Playground (pictured) is just one of four municipal playgrounds up for immediate replacement. -- Photo from City of Prince Albert.

There are four city playgrounds where equipment needs immediate replacement, and five others that need replacement within three to four years, according to a new report presented at Monday’s executive committee meeting.

The report on the state of the city’s playgrounds also called roughly 75 per cent of all playground equipment obsolete, largely because the manufacturer is no longer in business. The city maintains 40 playgrounds in total.

Deputy Mayor Don Cody said upgrading the city’s playground equipment is “very close to the top” of council’s priority list. However, it’s too early to say how much the upgrades will cost.

“We’re always talking about the youth and how we should have something for them to do and here’s an opportunity,” Cody said in an interview on Tuesday. “It’s pretty close to our top priority, and I’m hoping that in budget time we give it a very serious look to ensure that every area of the city has a good supply of playground equipment.”

The City of Prince Albert has spent nearly $1.35-million in playgrounds upgrades so far this year, with most of that money going towards the new Jump Start Inclusive Playground near the Alfred Jenkins Field House. More than $200,000 was spend on upgrades and improvements to 19 Prince Albert playgrounds in 2019.

Cody said he expects the parks department to be very aggressive next summer in repairing and replacing old playground equipment. He hopes council will fund the project appropriately, but added he’s unsure exactly how much that will be.

“We certainly, I think, will be giving it a reasonably high priority,” he said. “Whether we can put another extra few dollars in—over and above what we did last year—I guess we’ll have to see how that works, but I think it will certainly be up there.”

Of the four playgrounds that require immediate replacement, only A.C. Howard Playground on Bliss Crescent received investment in 2019. The city spent $10,914 on a new two-bay swing set, benches, garbage cans and concrete padding. However the report from Parks Manager Tim Yeaman recommends replacing the main play structure immediately.

The other three playgrounds requiring immediate replacement are the Bernice Sayese Lions Park Playground on 1350 15th Avenue West, the James Isbister Playground, located along MacArthur Drive and Donaldson Street, and the Little Red River Playground in Little Red River Park.

The Hazeldell Playground at 325 Third Avenue Northwest, and the Mair Playground at 11th Avenue West and River Street West will need replacing within three years.

Parks Manager Tim Yeaman said he honestly didn’t know what he was getting himself into when he and one other municipal employee began evaluating and categorizing every piece of city-owned playground equipment. However, he’s confident the work will help the city upgrade existing playgrounds as efficiently as possible.

“What we want to do is create a timeline, starting in 2020, and start to work towards replacement and retrofitting of these playgrounds where it makes the most sense,” Yeaman told council on Monday. “But, we also want to look at each individual park that’s been identified on here and ask ourselves what’s the best fit for that location.”

“I think we have a really good footprint now,” he added. “We want this to be a living, breathing document. We don’t want this to sit on the shelf and gather dust. We want to be able to utilize this.”

Yeaman said he’d love to “ask for the sky” when it came to financial backing. However, he also said he understands that there are limitations to how much they can accomplish in a given year.

“I don’t want to bite off more than we can chew,” he said. I think when we are doing a project, we should do it well from start to finish

The average lifespan of a playground structure is about 15 years. There are 20 city-maintained playground structures that are 15 years or older. The oldest playground structure in the city is the James Isbister Playground, which was built in 1998.

Yeaman’s report was enthusiastically received by city council, who unanimously voted to put place in on the agenda for November’s budget meetings.