Fairfax County parents said yesterday that despite a school officials' moratorium on the construction of new wooden "creative playgrounds," they are confident the play areas eventually will be declared safe.
County school officials sent letters to principals this week announcing a temporary ban on construction of new playgrounds because of safety concerns, high maintenance costs and questions raised by an insurance company.
School PTAs contribute the labor and money to build the play areas, which cost $20,000 to $30,000, and the county maintains them after they are built. However, the county has been surprised at how expensive some of the playgrounds have been to maintain -- a $5,000 repair bill in one instance.
Proponents of the play areas, which are constructed with telephone poles, tires and other materials, say they are more challenging to children than other playgrounds.
Three elementary schools building the play areas this week -- Pine Spring, Timber Lane in Falls Church and Cunningham Park in Vienna -- were exempted from the moratorium, but warned that the playgrounds may have to be torn down. All three PTAs voted to go ahead.
County officials this week inspected the materials used in the three playgrounds under construction and oversaw the construction. Diedrich said Pine Spring had to replace some used telephone poles with new ones, and add a few more bolts, but "nothing substantial" was required. In the past, the county was not involved in inspecting the playgrounds.
Diedrich said she is not concerned about the moratorium, saying "we'll probably have a better playground for it."
Maureen H. Tuttle, coordinator of the Timber Lane playground committee, said the moratorium "has aroused absolutely no concern among parents." She said playground work is "moving along beautifully," with construction expected to finish this weekend.
At Cunningham Park, "everyone is confident that things will work out," said parent Carol Spurlock. She said the county "had every right to take a look at what's being done."