Some 27% of playgrounds in Dutch towns and cities are under threat because of a shortage of local council cash and volunteers to run them, according to the Jantje Beton foundation, which promotes provisions for children.
On top of that, a further 28% of playgrounds face an uncertain future, the foundation says. Almost four in five of the playground committees that took part in the survey said the shortage of volunteers was a major risk while 50% blamed rising costs.
Although playing outside is considered a key factor in children’s development, local councils are slow to support initiatives – even though they all have policies on reducing childhood obesity and encouraging exercise, says foundation director Dave Ensberg-Kleijkers.
“Our member playgrounds get zero or very little subsidy and they get very little support from the local authority,” he told the AD. Some 700 playground committees are members of the organisation.
Ensberg-Kleijkers says the Netherlands needs a “playground law” in line with the current regulations on libraries so that everyone has access to a safe place to play as well as books.
“The battle for public space is a tricky one, given the housing shortage,” he said. “But space for a playground is bottom of the priority list.”
Despite the lack of council support, the shortage of volunteers is the biggest risk for playgrounds which are run by volunteers – particularly finding a treasurer to take care of the financial side.
This could be made easier, he said, by putting all the playgrounds under a single board with a paid official. “Then the volunteers can focus on the things which give them energy, like a craft afternoon on Halloween,” he said.
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