There are many reasons why Farragut is an exceptional place to live. Some are obvious, like great schools. Other positive qualities, like high development standards, might not be on everyone’s radar.
Here’s one that many don’t know about but all can appreciate: The town of Farragut is serious about playground safety. The town has four parks, and three of them have playground equipment. Every piece of that equipment is regularly inspected by Parks & Athletics coordinator Lauren Cox.
Cox has been with the town for eight years. She graduated from Middle Tennessee State University with a degree in outdoor recreation, and she loves parks. She was so enthusiastic about park safety that she became certified as a playground safety inspector while she was still the town’s special event and program coordinator. She passed a rigorous test that required her to spend many hours immersed in the Public Playground Safety Standards Field Guide.
Cox was kind enough to let me follow her around during a recent inspection of Anchor Park. She inspects each park playground once a month. The first thing she did was look at every bolt that holds together the 15-year-old play system. She took a photo of one bolt that was slightly loose; she sent the photo to another parks and rec staff member, who stopped by later to make adjustments.
Loose bolts can compromise equipment, but they can also be a tripping hazard, she says. Bolts that are too long are a problem because they can catch clothing or cause a scrape. She has devices that measure acceptable bolt height and length.
She also has devices that measure gaps in playground equipment. One test figure is the size of the torso of the smallest at-risk users, and one is the size of the head of the largest at-risk users. If the torso figure can pass through the equipment but the head figure can’t, the gap could result in head entrapment, which could cause strangulation.
Cox takes playground risks seriously. After hearing about entanglement hazards in her playground safety certification class, she cut out the drawstrings of her son’s sweatshirts.
“There are so many hidden hazards out there, and I can’t inspect every place he plays,” she says.
She measures mulch depth during monthly inspections, particularly in fall zones around slides and climbers, and checks swing hooks to make sure they’re fully closed. New equipment must be inspected for “crush and shear” risk – anything that could seriously injure a finger.
There are rules and standards for every aspect of a playground. Many park users don’t understand the labor and cost of installing new equipment, Cox says.
“I get requests for additional swings all the time, but people don’t realize how much room is required to install swings safely. The swings themselves are also expensive. The new double swings we installed at Anchor Park and McFee Park were $1,500 and $1,400.”
Local parks are one of the amenities that Farragut residents enjoy without paying a property tax. Safe playgrounds that are regularly inspected by town staff are another benefit that all users should appreciate.
Wendy Smith coordinates marketing and public relations for the town of Farragut.