Stay Cool This Summer

Get Your Local Playground Covered

Truthfully, it's not easy. Large shade structures cost an average of $35,000, so chances are you'll still have to do some fund-raising or lobbying of your elected officials. Peter Christoff, a Las Vegas community activist, says he spent five years preaching the importance of shade until the Las Vegas City Council came around. Christoff and the experts at KaBOOM!, a national nonprofit devoted to saving play, explain how to get shade for your play space.

  • Write an appeal letter. Contact the agency that owns the playground and express your concerns in a few key points. Framing it as a health issue is the best approach, Christoff says.
  • Come up with a plan. Most shade-system manufacturers will gladly come to your playground and create a design for you. (The biggest companies have national networks of sales reps.) They should be able to estimate the cost, a key detail whether you're going after a grant or asking a government agency for money.
  • Find allies. Contact dermatologists, other parents, and local branches of the PTA or the American Cancer Society, and ask them for support.
  • Lobby legislators. Collect signatures, contact the media, and go in a large group to the televised local government meetings.
  • Think big. It's easiest and least expensive to plan for shade as you're designing a new playground, rather than going back and adding it later. Ask your city or school district to consider requiring all new play areas to be covered. Point out that such guidelines are becoming more common nationwide.

Sound like a lot of work? No doubt. But with persistence, the payoff can be huge. Three years ago, largely in response to Christoff's efforts, the city of Las Vegas spent $1.2 million to install 60 shade structures in 40 existing parks. "It all started with one citizen who was very, very vocal and who initiated the charge," says Larry Haugsness, the city's director of operation and management. Since the canopies went up, more children than ever are using the parks -- and their parents can rest easy knowing their children have one more layer of protection against the sun's dangerous rays.

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