Mishap leads to more playground clearing
The Glencoe Park District's Fred Gerber removes a strap used to pull down one of the towers of a piece of the biggest Friends Park playground apparatus Oct. 17, 2012. |Irv Leavitt~Sun-Times Media
Updated: November 26, 2012 6:10AM
GLENCOE — The barren landscape at a busy Glencoe park can be tied to an injury to the son of Park Board President Max Retsky, on a piece of playground apparatus left standing a month after an inspection indicated safety questions at the park.
On Oct. 15, the boy fell through a collapsing step of Friends Park’s biggest piece of playground apparatus, which had stood more than two weeks after two other pieces in the same set were razed because of rotting wood.
The boy, 13, sustained a minor cut on his hand, but was otherwise unhurt after a five-foot fall to the ground.
Friends Park, at Vernon Avenue and Tudor Court, is the district’s signature park, and said to be its busiest aside from the Glencoe Beach.
Two days after the incident, the big multi-towered, timber-constructed apparatus – like the other two, installed in the park’s 1995 refit – was demolished.
At least one more piece of the park’s apparatus is also deteriorating, and will also be razed, Director of Parks Rick Bold said Friday.
The whole set of Friends playground apparatus was tabbed to be replaced some time in mid-2013, as such equipment is not expected to last much beyond 15 years, Interim Park District Executive Director Steve Nagle said Oct. 16.
Now, that replacement has been moved up to early March.
Park district employees had noted the deterioration of the two smaller pieces after a regular monthly inspection in September, Bold said.
“The uprights had some serious rot in them,” he said Friday. “You could push down and wiggle a piece.
“The railings were basically falling off, and there was nothing (to reattach them) to.”
He asked the district’s insurance carrier, the Park District Risk Management Agency, for an assessment. The PDRMA representative, after an inspection on or about Sept. 7, advised the removal of the two smaller pieces “in the near future, meaning the next couple of weeks,” Bold said.
Those two were removed, leaving behind the biggest piece of apparatus, which was also deteriorating, but not seen as dangerous. The railings and bolts seemed tight, he said.
Dan Barchenger, parks department supervisor, said, “We had jumped up and down on it,” and it appeared strong.
“We were shocked when we saw it,” he said of the collapsed platform step.
“I was going to have my staff take [the large apparatus] out the next week (the week of Oct. 22) irregardless whether it had a problem,” Bold said Friday.
“We tried to make it last to the end of the season.”
He said a small piece of equipment just north of the big apparatus, used by small children to climb upon, is showing some rot, and will also be removed soon.
The PDRMA representative, away from his office through Oct. 26, could not be reached for comment.
Nagle said it was possible that the large apparatus, about 15 feet tall, could have been sturdy enough at the time of the inspections, but deterioration might have been accelerated by heavy rain the weekend of Oct. 13.
The mishap happened the day before a Glencoe Park District Board meeting, at which time commissioners agreed to immediately remove the apparatus.
At the time of the short Oct. 16 Board discussion of the mishap, Retsky said that she had seen the damage the afternoon of the incident.
She did not mention, however, that it was her own son Jake who had fallen through the platform-like step.
“I was in a difficult position because it was my son,” she said after the demolition. “I didn’t want anyone to think we rushed to take it down because it was a park district commissioner’s kid.”
She added, however, that she made sure the apparatus was taped off the next morning, because the broken platform step could not be seen from the ground.
“I would have felt the same way if it had been anyone else’s kid,” she said.
LUCK PLAYS ROLE
She said that her son and a friend had both fallen through, but the other boy grabbed a bar, and pulled himself back up.
“There was a board with three nails sticking out if it,” she said. “If Jake had fallen in a different direction – he’s not the most graceful kid in the world – he could have gotten a nail through his head.”
She said she found it odd that several boys were present at the time of the incident, but none of their parents reported it.
Bold said playground apparatus at other parks is also old, but not deteriorating, because of steel construction.
Commissioners decided Oct. 16 to field public suggestions for new Friends playground equipment at a Special Projects/Facilities Committee meeting at 7 p.m. Nov. 1 at the Takiff Center.
The district now plans to seek bids for new apparatus in late January. Costs are expected to exceed $150,000.