Sunday, October 24, 2021

Shade for the Most Vulnerable

The State of Florida is proud of its nickname as “The Sunshine State,” boasting an average of 230 days a year with abundant sunshine for its residents and visitors. That nickname was actually officially adopted by the Florida Legislature in 1970 and is seen on billboards and advertising throughout the state.

However, the wonderful sub-tropical climate may at times present challenges for residents and visitors alike. The intense rays of the sun can harm adults and children alike, and as in any environment, precautions must be taken to protect those that live or visit here.

Adrian Conner, a member of the Marco Island Parks and Recreation Advisory Committee has been an advocate for providing some type of protection for adults and children within our parks when visiting them. At a recent advisory committee meeting, she made a presentation of what she felt might be some of the solutions to those challenges.

“I really believe we have a responsibility to make our recreational and play areas as healthy an environment as we can for those that visit them,” said Conner, a mother of two children both 5 and 7 years of age. She is also a Collier County Teacher at the Manatee Middle School.

Conner is concentrating her efforts on alternatives for providing “shade structures” at Mackle Park. Her presentation to the committee provided examples of what she was proposing, and they can be seen only about 12 miles from Marco. These structures can be seen in parks throughout the city of Naples and provide a colorful backdrop to those areas they are in and can be easily removed in case of impending storm events. 

When Coastal Breeze News visited Mackle Park this week, structures such as the plastic slides, rubberized swing seats and some of the composite materials which make up the area known as Kids Cove could be found to be very warm to the touch. None of these areas are protected from the constant rays of the sun, even though we are only into late fall and early winter months and we are not exposed to the warmer temperatures of spring and summer months.

Although air temperature may only be 90 to 95 degrees, materials exposed to the sun in those temperatures may rise considerably higher. Skin begins to feel pain at 111 degrees, at 118 degrees skin can sustain 1st-degree burns, and at 131 degrees skin can suffer 2nd-degree burns. Young children could be more susceptible at lower temperatures.

The city has placed two shade structures, but nowhere near any seating areas within the playground for young children. There are several picnic tables under structures, but those are found near some of the adult areas and near wonderful shade trees.

“We understand that this should be a planned and well thought out process, but we need to start preparing for it now for the next budget cycle. To accomplish what we need to do may take a five-year plan and move forward in a deliberate process. We would also hope to have some consideration given to incorporating similar structures into Veterans Community Park to provide protection for those attending events there, or just wanting to sit and enjoy that wonderful spot near the center of the community,” said Conner.

If citizens have a comment regarding this or any other Rec/Park issue, they should plan on attending one of their monthly meetings. Those meetings are held on the 3rd Tuesday of each month in the council chambers beginning at 3:30 PM and are open to the public.

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