‘We think it’ll help’: Steamboat Parks and Rec sanitizes parks daily
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Playground steps are not made for large feet, but Nicholas Neiberger makes his way up them anyway.
The Steamboat Springs parks crew leader has to climb up to sanitize the handholds, railings and play equipment on the walkway at the playground at Whistler Park. With a small tank and spray nozzle, Neiberger douses every surface of the playground that is touched, including the slide, the railings and all the wheels and knobs designed to entertain a young mind.
Since it’s nearly impossible to close an open, public space, Steamboat Springs Parks and Recreation has been sanitizing playgrounds, trash bins and dog bag dispensers every day. The department started the practice as concern rose about the spread of COVID-19.
The city hasn’t been to every park but plans to add more to the cleaning rotation as the snow melts and more people start using them. For now, a staff member sanitizes surfaces at Whistler, Howelsen and Little Toots parks, daily, since those have been the busiest.
“It’s our community’s lifeblood to be out and recreating and being active and that goes the same for our kids,” said Parks and Recreation Director Angela Cosby. “We’re seeing what we can do to give the public any peace of mind.”
Georgia Reust had enough peace of mind to bring her 3-year-old granddaughter Josie to Whistler Park on Wednesday.
“We feel safe because Parks and Rec are taking care,” Reust said. “That’s awesome. … We appreciate it so much. Kids have to play.”
While the pair were on the swings, Neiberger made his way around the play structure in front of them. Reust explained to her granddaughter the spray was to kill germs since many people use the playground and germs could be spread. Josie didn’t seem concerned, continuing to swing and show off her counting skills. Both Josie and Reust gripped the swing with gloves on, as an additional layer of precaution.
Neiberger said he’s already gotten into a rhythm after a week and a half of performing the task, methodically spraying the bright, blue trash bin at the entrance to Whistler before moving on to the playground.
“We started by just spraying the handles, but I’ve started spraying the whole trash can down, just in case. You never know who’s going to be touching what,” Neiberger said. “We are spraying down all the doggie bag dispensers. Most of us are trying to spray down anything that’s getting touched regularly.”
Normally, playgrounds are not sanitized, and trash containers are brought in once a year for a power wash and sanitizing. Despite the increased sanitation effort, Parks Supervisor Ernie Jenkins hopes people are still taking additional precautions.
“What we’re doing is not foolproof, it’s not 100% effective,” he said. “It’s no guarantee of anything. We just think it can help.”
Purchased locally, Parks and Recreation is using a cleaning product called Biodet ND32, with a lemon or pine scent. While it obviously should not be ingested, Jenkins said it’s a safe cleaning solution to be using on playgrounds.
Since not enough snow has melted to clear fields, sanitizing has become a top priority for Parks and Recreation. Once baseball and soccer fields are visible, Cosby said she hopes her department can take advantage of the lack of recreation to improve the fields a bit before regular use resumes.
Jenkins said his staff also has been spending a lot of time cleaning up trash from parks and medians, as well as sweeping sidewalks.
“Every snowbank that melts brings a new surprise,” Jenkins said.
Neiberger said he doesn’t mind taking the time to sanitize playgrounds. He doesn’t like having to focus his energy on avoiding canine landmines, though.
“Pick up your dog poop,” he said. “Please.”
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