Synthetic turf promotes inclusive recreation for kids with disabilities and physical challenges since wheelchairs roll easily and crutches won't sink into park surfaces.

Parks & playgrounds use synthetic turf to promote fitness

In reporting that about 17% of children and adolescents are obese, the Centers for Disease Control notes that the lack of safe, appealing places for kids to play or be active is a major problem in many communities. Determined to reverse this trend, a growing number of parks and playgrounds are installing synthetic turf to help youth be active year-round.

“Parks and playgrounds featuring synthetic turf create safe, accessible and resilient playing surfaces for kids with a diversity of needs – the same surfaces that elite athletes play on,” noted Rick Doyle, President of the Synthetic Turf Council. “The opportunity to increase physical activity is critical for the fitness, well-being and self-esteem of youth.”

Synthetic turf promotes inclusive recreation for kids with disabilities and physical challenges since wheelchairs roll easily and crutches won’t sink into park surfaces. In 2009, the City of Lakeland Parks & Recreation Department in Lakeland, Florida opened Common Ground, its first playground featuring unique play experiences for children of varying physical and cognitive abilities. Serving over 17,000 children, the innovative park features over 25,000 square feet of synthetic turf play zones. Taylor’s Dream Boundless Playground in Fort Wayne, Indiana opened in June 2011 after years of grassroots fundraising to offer amazing play opportunities for children with and without disabilities. Both parks feature an accessible, ASTM safety-rated surface called Playground Grass created by ForeverLawn.

“We have some fabulous facilities — but this synthetic grass sets our Boundless Playground apart from all the others!” said Sarah Nichter of the Fort Wayne Parks & Recreation Department. “Not only beautiful, it also gives children and adults with disabilities the chance to play with their peers. I believe this type of surfacing will become a standard for many playgrounds in the future.”

Parks are able to significantly increase capacity and conserve millions of gallons of water annually by using synthetic turf, like the Athenia Steel Recreation Complex in Clifton, New Jersey.  Vacant for many years after a defunct steel company closed, the environmentally challenged land was cleaned-up and reclaimed in April 2011. Today the Complex features three multi-purpose synthetic turf fields by  AstroTurf® that provide unprecedented opportunities for youth soccer, football and lacrosse programs.

Schools with synthetic grass playgrounds are seeing a difference too. Located in an economically challenged area with a concrete playground, students at John Wister Elementary School in Philadelphia were often in the nurse’s office with scrapes and other injuries. According to Principal Donna Smith, test scores increased by 20%, kids’ self-esteem skyrocketed, and parental involvement increased after the synthetic turf play area and field was installed in 2010. A new playground at Chinle Elementary School in Chinle, Arizona, the latest in a series of facility improvements being made at Navajo Nation schools, has been embraced by students and faculty. Since more than 30% of the Navajo population is diabetic, the ForeverLawn playground comes at a time when many are stressing the importance of exercise on the reservation.

While many homeowners have turned to synthetic grass for aesthetic reasons and to conserve water, their kids are also benefitting from more durable backyard play spaces.  Just ask five- year-old twins Makenzie and Makayla Creasey of Lexington, North Carolina.  Their family, spotlighted in a January, 2010 episode of “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” following their mom’s courageous battle with colon cancer, received a beautiful new home. But the twins were most enthusiastic about their new, state-of-the-art synthetic grass playground area donated and installed by Synthetic Grass Warehouse.