Have you noticed some new woodchips at many of the city’s playgrounds recently? Play, heavy foot traffic and wood decomposition are leading factors in woodchip reduction around our play structures each year. In addition to monthly safety inspections, every spring Elk River Park Maintenance staff members (who are also Certified Playground Safety Inspectors) assess every play structure in the city to determine whether or not additional woodchips are needed. This is necessary to remain compliant with Public Playground Safety Standards, as woodchip depths are determined based on the highest play feature present at that specific playground. The taller the structure, the more woodchips are required to meet safety standards – for example, the required depth of the woodchips at Orono Park is much deeper than Fresno Park (pictured).
While there are many different kinds of surfaces that can be used for playgrounds, Elk River uses engineered wood fiber (woodchips) in most of our parks as it’s economical, and ultimately doesn’t leave the playground area as easy as pea gravel or sand. Also, what many are surprised to learn is that playground woodchips are not just ground stumps or scrap wood. Playground woodchips are engineered to be a certain size to offer the most effective fall protection, and are run through a specific kind of grinder to ensure there are no strands, sticks, or jagged edges that could potentially injure a park-goer.