Maintaining Outdoor Surfaces: Outdoor Recreation Surfaces

When working in the Parks and Recreation industry, there are many tasks you and your team must perform. Of course, one of the most important is maintaining outdoor surfaces. In this three-part series, we will discuss several aspects of outdoor surface maintenance. We will begin with information on maintaining outdoor recreation surfaces, such as tennis courts.

The Importance of Maintaining Outdoor Recreation Surfaces

When thinking about the maintenance of outdoor recreation surfaces, all you have to do is envision rundown surfaces to understand why maintaining them is so important. For example, a tennis court with a slippery surface is not safe. Nor is one with pits and divots in it. Such imperfections could cause players to trip and fall.

Maintenance Starts at the Time of Installation

Any outdoor recreation surface is easier to maintain when it is properly installed. You must create the right subsurface environment. Drainage is particularly important. Then, you need to choose the surface material itself properly. When making that choice, think about whether the surface is single-use or multi-use. Some of the best surfaces are multi-use and easy to maintain throughout the year. Then consider the following features of a good surface:

  • Stain Proof
  • Non-Slip
  • Low-Cost Installation
  • Low-Cost Maintenance Requirements
  • Accessible for Disabled Individuals
  • Capable of Withstanding Year-Round Wear

Choosing an outdoor surface has to be done with the specific purpose, or purposes, of the surface in mind also. Certain uses require specific surface types. For example, playground surfaces are meant to be as durable and safe as possible. The materials commonly used in play areas are designed to reduce the chances of children being injured. Surfaces such as concrete are unacceptable in play areas because children can fall on them and be injured. The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) regulates the acceptable materials for such areas. Among those materials are pea gravel, sand, wood mulch and engineered rubber mulch.

More Variety for Other Outdoor Recreation Surfaces

Outside of playground areas, you may have more leeway in the types of surfaces you choose. However, you must still choose wisely for reasons besides safety. Keeping costs and maintenance requirements down can help reduce the amount of work you and your team members have to do to maintain those surfaces throughout the year. Here are some examples of possible surface materials you may choose:

  • Natural Earth Surfaces - Natural earth is an excellent surface material in terms of availability and initial cost. However, weather phenomena and general wear can cause it to erode over time. It also changes consistency with the changing seasons and weather conditions.
  • Turf - Turf is difficult to maintain in high use areas, but it has an excellent appearance when installed and works well for certain specific purposes.
  • Aggregates - Aggregates, such as sand or gravel, are useful for many applications, such as to surround picnic tables in a picnic area. They allow proper drainage and are comfortable to walk on. However, they do need frequent replacement.
  • Concrete and Bituminous Surfaces - Bitruminous surfaces are emulsions that include some amount of rock. Such surfaces are quite hard and durable. However, they require careful initial setup. There must be proper subsurfaces underneath them. They must also be installed in such a way as to allow good drainage.

As you can see, there is a delicate balance to outdoor surface selection. You need an appropriate surface for each type of use. You must also consider initial costs, long-term maintenance costs, and time spent for maintenance. That is why planning is an essential part of the maintenance process, even though it takes place before surfaces are even installed.

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