Every year, more than 650 people in the U.S. die from heat exhaustion. Tens of thousands more suffer the effects of heat-related illness ranging from fainting to severe headaches, nausea, and muscle cramps. Direct sun exposure on hot days and inadequate hydration are two risk factors that greatly increase the risk of heat illness. But Americans want to go out and enjoy their state and local parks during the summer. This means having a way to cool off is essential for public safety. Here are a few ways that parks across the U.S. help patrons stay cool.
In areas without trees, artificial shade structures provide valuable shelter from the sun. Canopies attached to poles are a favorite choice for shielding playgrounds from the harsh solar rays. These have the added benefit of reducing the risk of burns from touching hot equipment. Larger, more durable and elaborate shade structures can include pavilions or sports dugouts. Shade structures that are open on two or three sides allow the breeze to blow through, adding to the cooling effect.
On days when humidity isn’t too high, a misting system can help patrons keep cool. The higher the temperature, the greater the opportunity for reduction through misting. On a day with low humidity but temperatures in the 110° range, it’s possible to drop temps by a full 30° within a few feet of the misting system. But people do need to be quite close to get the full benefit. At 10-15 feet away from the mist line, the temperature reduction is only about 10°.
Bathrooms and Water Fountains
Access to water is critical for preventing and treating heat illness. All parks should have a sink or fountain available to get clean water to drink or use to douse clothing. A bathroom has the advantage of providing shade (and potentially air conditioning) as well. Building an awning onto an existing restroom is an inexpensive way to add more shaded space for patrons.
Pools and Cooling Centers
For some cities, the Parks and Recreation department can provide more than fun in the sun. It provides a vital service when hot weather puts human life at risk. For example, the City of Fresno encourages city residents to come to one of its public pools or cooling centers to beat the heat. In fact, when temps top 105°, bus transportation to these locations is free.
Cool Steel Construction for Parks
At Peak Steel, we can provide engineering, design, prefabrication, and construction services for steel shade structures, bathrooms, park buildings, and more. To discuss an upcoming Parks & Rec project, contact our team today.