Braefoot Park is next in a series of playgrounds across Saanich to have its sand swapped out for engineered wood chips that create a surface that’s wheelchair-friendly and provides better cushioning in the event of a fall.
In the past, playgrounds were typically surrounded by sand or gravel. However, the materials aren’t accessible to all, their abrasive quality degrades the equipment faster and they often become an unofficial litter box for neighbourhood cats, explained Gary Darrah, Saanich’s manager of parks planning and development.
Over the past several years, the district’s Parks, Recreation and Community Services Department has been in the process of swapping out the sand in playgrounds for engineered wood fibre surfacing to increase safety and accessibility, he said.
Most other municipalities have also been making the swap to wood chips as it’s become best practice over the years, he explained, adding that the City of Victoria was the first in the region to begin using wood chips about 15 years ago.
What is happening at Braefoot Park? Engineered wood chips are going in. This makes for a more accessible surface. Nearby playgrounds include Reynolds and Brodick Parks.
— Saanich Parks, Recreation & Community Services (@SaanichParksRec) March 9, 2021
In Saanich, the change to wood chips typically coincides with complete playground renovations and equipment replacements, Darrah said. Play structures have a lifespan of about 20 years so they’re constantly being updated, and most modern play equipment requires a larger safety zone so the playgrounds must be expanded. At this time, the old sand is removed, new structures are installed and then the area is filled in with wood chips.
Top-ups are also done every few years because the material gets stamped down, he said, adding that the supplier will return to add more and “fluff it up a bit.”
A few dozen parks in Saanich – including Reynolds Park and Horner Park – have already received wood chips. The playground in Braefoot Park is next on the list as it is currently undergoing a minor equipment replacement.
Many more parks in the district are slated to have their sand swapped for wood chips in 2021 including Layritz Park, Brydon Park, Gorge Waterway Park, Mount Douglas Park and Hyacinth Park.
Darrah noted that Normandy Park and Allenby Park will also be undergoing full replacements this year and the work will include wood chip infill. Saanich has also begun adding concrete ramps to its parks to further increase accessibility.
To learn more about Saanich’s playground projects, visit saanich.ca.