Material Changes and Plan Check

Our saga to rebuild and reopen Adventure Playground has passed its three year anniversary. In this time we have made considerable gains from earning planning funds and running community workshops, to approving a master plan and approving a budget for construction. This past Wednesday three of us Defenders met with ten City of Irvine staffers assigned to various roles in the AP development process in order to discuss AP’s latest developments concerning plan check. We learned that the plan design is over 90% completed and is gearing up to begin construction bids early next year. Construction is scheduled for early spring, Grand opening is tentatively set for June 2015. The 10% left for the design refers in part to a materials change request concerning pathways and fall protection for play structures. Originally the pathways were to be made from a decomposed granite product called Nexpave and the fall protection to be made from a wood mulch product called Fibar. We learned in this most recent meeting that certain project managers had opted to replace these materials for concrete pathways and rubberized surface fall protection. For us defenders, this was unsettling news. It has been the community’s stance since the earliest of the public workshops that concrete pathways and rubberized fall protection do not belong in AP. The community has established a theme of organic building materials that foster a feeling of connection to nature. Concrete and rubber do just about the opposite of that as you play, walk, and run across them.

City staff reasoning for this materials change request follows:
  1. The city has implemented decomposed granite (Nextpave) in their Bommer Canyon facility and it has already begun cracking after less than 1 year
  2. Wood mulch is messy and would require more maintenance to sweep
  3. Wood mulch could be thrown into the new AP pond by children or blown into the pond by wind.
  4. Wood mulch is a choking hazard

Our response follows:

  1. Nextpave cracking is a legitimate concern, yet it is possible this is only an issue for parking spaces frequented by automobile traffic.  AP would not have auto traffic except for very infrequent maintenance vehicles for tree trimming. At this point, managers are pretty upset with the Bommer canyon install and are not open to Nexpave at all.
  2. AP is supposed to be a messy place. That’s sort of the point of a ‘Tom Sawyer’ experience. Besides, the park will be staffed when open and can easily be swept up by staff before shifts, by leaders in training, or by volunteers.
  3. Kids will be kids. Yes they could throw some wood chips into the pond; but that’s why we have staff on site. Plus its nothing a pool net couldn’t fix. For wind issues, see the next section on resolutions.
  4. Everything that can be swallowed is a choking hazard. There are tens of thousands of code compliant parks using Fibar mulch. If a child is young enough to swallow a wood chip, then that child is too young to be unsupervised anyway. The driving spirit of this AP rebuild is that we are not going to produce a “bubble wrapped” play environment as a concession to every little and remote liability concern.

Our suggested resolution to these material changes is a building material product called Woodcarpet by Zeager. Woodcarpet is a bonded mulch used for trails and playgrounds that is resistant to wind erosion. There are also similar alternatives, including certain “double shredded” mulches for playgrounds that stick together like nappy hair. To be fair to city staff, they did select a seeded aggregate concrete that has a natural look to it, and chose recycled rubberized fall protection that is earth toned. While we do appreciate the effort to make these ‘alternative’ materials more organic looking, these choices are still the motus operandi of the stereotypical playground that AP is getting away from; not to mention significantly more expensive (200% more for concrete, 150% more for rfp).

We’ve suggested this resolution to city staff and they have agreed to look into using Woodcarpet as an alternative. While certain staffers in public works were receptive to the idea, we did receive a pessimistic response from the AP project’s primary decision maker Dori Budde who expressed little enthusiasm for the Woodcarpet suggestion. Dori is the new City of Irvine Community Services Manager and has only been with the AP project since April 2013. We encourage you as an AP advocate to write to Dori Budde (dbudde@cityofirvine.org) and express your support for the use of organic building materials like Woodcarpet, and explain in your own words why materials like concrete pathways and rubberized fall protection are best left outside of AP. We also suggest contacting a City of Irvine council member to express your support for efforts to implement Woodcarpet or similar organic alternatives.

The following are the standing Irvine City Council members and their email addresses:

  • Mayor Stephen Choi – stevenchoi@ci.irvine.ca.us
  • Councilmember Larry Agran – larryagran@ci.irvine.ca.us
  • Councilmember Beth Krom – bethkrom@ci.irvine.ca.us
  • Councilmember Jefferey Lalloway – jeffreylalloway@ci.irvine.ca.us
  • Councilmember Christina Shea – christinashea@ci.irvine.ca.us

**Note: We suggest cc’ing Marie Luna (MLuna@ci.irvine.ca.us) on any emails you send regarding this matter. She is our primary point of contact on this project

Up to this point, city staffers have been incredibly gracious in continuing to invite us for update meetings, and by respecting the vast majority of AP themes and ideas requested by the community at workshops. They have gone to greater lengths than your average park to accommodate AP’s unique themes that make it such a special place. Over the course of three years the persons and city departments involved with the project have changed significantly. It is important for us as a community to reaffirm our support for this project and its themes by contacting our public servants endowed with the responsibility and authority to manage AP.

Long live the AP legacy.

Sincerely,

Defenders of Adventure Playground

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