The plastic toys in the Summit Avenue “tot lot” – as well as the Gladys Potter and Morris Street parks – were culled by the city Parks Department for safety reasons, according to Superintendent Wendy Nilsson.
In a statement about the toys to SNA, she said, “We look at them in the context of national Playground and Safety Standards for public parks. Many of the toys have sharp edges, small parts that are choking hazards, or are damaged in such a way that they could trap little fingers.”
In addition, Nilsson said, “We don’t have the staff to repeatedly visit each park to check toys for hazards, and the reality is that, even if we did, very few of them would meet safety standards. As a compromise, our staff are instructed to periodically remove toys if there are safety issues or their numbers overtake the park. We have been thinning the toys this way for years.”
However, she pointed out, “my own children grew up playing with the tot lot plastic toys, so their removal is not something I take lightly. No one wants to disappoint a 3-year-old!”
In that context, Nilsson said the Parks Department “would welcome more neighbor involvement in our local parks more generally.”
“We would be happy to meet with representatives of local parks to discuss the future of plastic toys at the tot lots. This might start a valuable relationship between park neighbors and the Parks Department. There is an entire organization, the Partnership for Providence Parks, www.providenceparks.org, that works with us to establish and support Friends Groups so that we can have partners for all of our parks,” her statement said.
Nilsson added that “At Summit, we work with the Summit Neighborhood Association, but would love for many of you to get involved as we will soon be adding some additional play features and making some much needed repairs to the existing structures.”
Her statement further said, “We are also trying to create more fun things for the children to do in the parks so they might not miss all the plastic toys. Instead of adding plastic play equipment, we are working to create parks that connect children to nature and open and free play. At many of our parks we are building berms, log retaining walls, rain gardens, and adding rocks for children to play on and explore.”