The Demise of the Modern Playground
The platform system that you see in most Hawaii public playgrounds was originally designed by Jay Beckwith, a pioneer playground designer in the 1970’s. His efforts eventually became the products now sold through every playground manufacturer who basically copycatted one another and were largely responsible for the issuance of design guidelines and standards by the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM). These guidelines created the legal backbone for potential lawsuits in the case of an injury on a playground that does not comply. The fear of lawsuits has outweighed the interest in creating play opportunities for children to the extent that most municipalities are afraid to obfuscate from what is prescribed by the manufacturers. Today there are nearly forty manufacturers in the US and Canada creating “safe” playgrounds while the level of hospitalized injuries has not changed. Even Mr. Beckwith now laments that the “cookie cutter” playground has severely limited play opportunities for children to the point that it creates more problems than it solves.