10News report spurs changes at San Diego public parks

Safety expert evaluated several city parks


Officials are making safety changes at San Diego parks after an assessment by 10News and National Playground Safety consultant Dr. Carl Abraham.
10News consumer reporter Cristin Severance showed video of what was found at several city parks to Park and Recreation Director Stacey Lometico.
"The Park and Recreation Department takes safety at all our facilities, especially our playgrounds, very strongly. So, the fact that you pointed out some issues, we took initiative to go out to some of those sites," said Lometico.
At Rancho Canyon Mission Neighborhood Park in San Carlos, Abraham had a problem with the metal slide and old equipment. He also said a chain link fence climber was outdated and a child could become stuck climbing it.
Lomedico said the equipment is getting removed.
"We've barricaded those two pieces and will be removing them by the end of the week," she said.
New equipment could be installed at the site in three months.
The playground is in City Councilwoman Marti Emerald's district. She said the Parks and Recreation Department acted fast and was glad they boarded up the unsafe equipment.
"It needs to be replaced. We wouldn't have known it if you didn't act as our eyes and ears and I appreciate that," said Emerald.
At the Liberty Station play area, a broken piece of equipment was blocked off. A child, even a small one, could easily remove the barricade. Abraham said playing on broken equipment is unacceptable. 
"We agree the barricades used were not enough," said Lometico.
Now, the equipment is repaired and kids were back playing on it.
Abraham had an issue with the safety of a bridge and spiral ladder, but Lometico is standing by that equipment. She said the whole play area is cleared by a certified playground safety inspector.
"The Public Works Department would not open that playground if it had not been inspected by those standards," said Lometico.
The 10News story also pointed out a lack of visible signs or instructions for parents. Lometico said they do have small stickers on the equipment.
"Staff is going to evaluate whether we are going to put up another sign," she said.
Lometico also told 10News they are working with the manufacturer to fix some ground cover issues at the play area.
At Cabrillo Heights Neighborhood Park in Serra Mesa, 10News found a roped-off slide with cracked plastic at the base that had been that way for months.
"That had already been identified by staff as equipment that needed to be removed," said Lometico.
The entire structure is gone and a swing set may follow.
Lometico said the playground will be upgraded in the spring of 2013.
At a community park in San Ysidro, Abraham said the lack of ground cover makes climbing anything there unsafe.
National safety standards show there needs to be 12 inches of softer material over the ground.
"I've asked staff to look at that in terms of bringing out additional sand and rototilling," said Lometico.
A nonprofit group, Casa Familiar, wants to partner with the city to try and raise money for new equipment.
"Upgrade it and bring it to where children want to use it for both ages 1-5 [and] 5-12," she said.
10News asked Lometico how often all of the 300 parks in San Diego are inspected for safety issues and if the maintenance staff is trained on national safety standards.
"The on-site staff will do daily inspections. If there is anything they see as a safety issue they are to immediately barricade that and report it," said Lometico.
Even with daily inspections, there were problems found at every park.
"Clearly they missed them," she said.
Lometico said the staff has an annual training session, called a tailgate, where they go over how to do these inspections.
"What we need to do now is to re-emphasize the tailgate with our maintenance staff so that we can reinforce the important of daily inspections," she said.
The annual training session for employees will be in early October.
If you have a concern about a park where your kids play, there are two ways to report it.
Lometico said if there is a recreation center near your park, then go in and ask for the supervisor.
You can also email them at askparks@sandiego.gov.
San Diego has the second-largest municipal park system in the country.
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