Today, municipalities and families buy elaborate jungle gyms and playscapes with professed standards of safety. When I was a child, people had a slightly broader notion of appropriate playground equipment. Something I recently saw at a car show drove that point home.
Times have indeed changed. To protect the children of my city from the dangers lurking in our public parks, city officials tore down playscapes that had been in use for two decades with nary a problem. I guess that their theory was that no playscapes were better than theoretically dangerous ones. It took almost two years for the city to replace them. For all that time children were deprived of a place to play in the only public parks in that part of the city. Two years is a long time in the life of a child. The only problem is that nothing had changed with the playscapes. They hadn’t become unsafe because something had broken or changed. What changed was that ASTM, a non-profit organization that sets standards for all sorts of things (they were originally known as the American Society for Testing and Materials), issued a new standard for playground safety and the old playscapes did not meet the new standard. Not surprisingly, the company that made the original playscapes said that they could not be retrofitted to meet the new guidelines but they did offer to show the city officials their new line of ASTM compliant playscapes.
Apparently, the situation was so urgent that the city decided to tear down the “unsafe” structures before it had funds to replace them.