TSG Enjoys Role in Promoting Children’s Health and Wellbeing
November 9, 2016
According to a June article published in the Los Angeles Times on the benefits of play on children’s health, recent studies have revealed a positive correlation between a child’s performance in school and the amount of time spent exercising and playing. Appropriately, The Shauger Group, Inc. (TSG) has been heavily involved in recent projects that improve community parks, playgrounds, local zoos, and similar areas designed especially for children.
Over the past months, TSG has taken on two new projects—installing shade structures at the Essex County Turtle Back Zoo’s sea lion exhibit and performing playground upgrades at Belleville Park—that will provide opportunities to encourage children’s intellectual engagement and play.
These two projects follow up TSG’s June announcement about its involvement on four other similar park projects: baseball field upgrades at Newark’s Weequahic Park; park improvements at Newark’s West Side Park and Irvington’s Irvington Park; and the renovation to a prairie dog exhibit at the West Orange’s Turtle Back Zoo.
“As an Essex County contractor, it is extremely rewarding to work on projects that benefit our County, its facilities, and its citizens,” said Donald Shauger, executive vice president of TSG. “Especially critical in that equation is when the projects we work on are ‘kid-centric’—and encourage children’s education, development, and growth. When you consider that studies have proven the advantages of healthy play on children, it adds another level of meaning to the work we do on a day-to-day basis.”
“Parks, playgrounds, and zoos—like the ones we’re currently refurbishing—give children an outlet for their energy, a place to stimulate their minds, and a safe setting in which they can learn to interact with their peers,” added Lisa Shauger, president/CEO of TSG. “We are always eager to take on projects of this nature.”
Belleville Park Improvements – Belleville, New Jersey
On August 30, 2016, TSG received a notice to proceed on the revitalization of the Belleville Park playground, located in Belleville, New Jersey. Last constructed in 2005, the playground was approaching the end of its lifespan, which, depending on usage, typically is approximately 10 years. As the lowest responsible responsive bidder, TSG won the bid issued by the County of Essex to make important upgrades that will ensure the playground’s safety going forward.
The existing playground has a butterfly theme, with decorations that include a butterfly sculpture. To preserve the butterfly theme in the design of the new park, the new playground’s surface will be in the shape of a butterfly, and butterfly imprints will be stamped in all concrete areas.
As with many of the other playgrounds recently constructed by TSG, Belleville Park’s playground will feature a state-of-the-art rubberized safety surface. Increasingly popular over other surface options, including blacktop, rubberized surfaces are not susceptible to cracks, crevices, and other potentially hazardous surface separations, and they can accommodate high volumes of traffic with minimal wear. Shock-absorbent and non-slip in nature, rubberized surfaces also promote a high degree of safety and are more forgiving when children inevitably take a tumble (or two or three). Cost-effective, ADA-compliant, and easy to maintain, rubberized safety surfaces have become the preferred choice for modernized play areas.
After receiving the go-ahead to commence work on the project, TSG began demolition, which included taking down the old playground. It was necessary for TSG to remove current perimeter fencing, poles, and foundations. TSG then carried out earthwork, which included importing clean fill.
The playground will include features appealing to children of all ages and genders, as well as a seating area for parents to use while their kids play. The park will be split into play areas for two different age groups: toddlers from ages two to five, and children ranging from five to 12 in age. The older children’s play space will feature more sophisticated and challenging apparatus. In both areas, children will ascend climbers of various themes—coral, rock, stego, and “whirlwind,” to name a few.
The playground will be compliant with requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). There will be ADA-compliant swings and apparatus geared specifically toward accommodating children with disabilities. Interactive musical instruments will allow children to channel their creativity into a multisensory experience. Designed for inclusivity, the playground’s roller slide will offer children of all abilities a thrilling experience. According to GameTime, the manufacturer of the equipment, the roller slide
…provides distinctive developmental and play benefits such as enhanced balance and coordination. For children with sensory processing issues, the Roller Slide provides a calming sensory experience and can be incorporated into an occupational therapy protocol. Constructed entirely of steel and aluminum, it’s also an ideal option when designing a playground for children with cochlear implants.
In the older children’s play area, various climbing apparatus will let kids have a field day pretending to be Spider-Man: children can clamber over a climbing net, as well as a “trinet”—a fun three-sided climbing structure covered in netting. Nature-themed features of this play area include a leaf scramble-up, a jungle vine link, a giant sun blossom, and a leaf seat. Multiple zip slides and funnel bridges, as well as a helix tower and catalyst spiral slide, will provide children with endless entertainment.
The play area geared toward the two- to five-year-olds will contain a sail-shaped climbing ladder and several slides. Youngsters can also cross a “web walk” netted bridge, a funnel bridge, and an upper body trainer, which is similar to a monkey bar structure.
In addition to the playground apparatus, the park will also contain other features: daisy flower bike racks, a drinking fountain, benches, and a dog fence. TSG will conclude the project with landscaping and irrigation work, sprucing up the playground area with an array of trees, plants, and shrubs.
Turtle Back Zoo Shade Structures – West Orange, New Jersey
After a veterinarian recommended the installation of a shade structure in the Turtle Back Zoo sea lion exhibit, the County of Essex evaluated the need for shade structures in the sea lion exhibit and surrounding areas. It was determined that the sea lion exhibit shade structure would have a dual purpose: as protection for the sea lions’ eyes, which are extremely sensitive to sunlight and, in particular, the sunlight that reflects off of the water within the exhibit; and as a measure to control—and stave off—algae growth.
The West Orange Planning Board provided a courtesy review of the proposed work, which not only included the installation of a shade structure at the sea lion exhibit, but also at the zoo’s amphitheater.
On May 12, 2016, the County of Essex issued TSG a notice to proceed on the Turtle Back Zoo shade structure project. French & Parrello, an engineering and design company based out of Wall, provided the design services for the project.
First, TSG handled the demolition, grading, soil erosion measures, and other site work necessary to prepare the amphitheater and sea lion exhibit for subsequent work. Among the preliminary tasks included the removal of existing granite block curbs, signage, and concrete sidewalks, as well as a present electrical box. In the amphitheater, TSG also temporarily removed some composite decking to allow for the installation of footings for the shade structure.
To put in the amphitheater and sea lion exhibit shade structures, TSG installed necessary columns, shade canopies, anchors, footings, and steel tubes, before backfilling. TSG began first by putting in the sea lion exhibit’s shade structures. To accommodate the heightened traffic at the zoo while children were out of school for the summer, TSG worked night shifts from 3:00 p.m. to 11:00 p.m. on this project. The County of Essex decided to delay the start of the amphitheater shade structure installation until after school started in the early fall, as the zoo would be less crowded.
Although it proved challenging for TSG to operate amidst high volumes of summertime traffic at the zoo, TSG was able to navigate the crowds and adjust its construction schedules in order to ensure the successful completion of the project. While installing the sea lion exhibit’s shade structures, TSG made sure that everything, including all sidewalks, remained open. During the fall amphitheater shade structure installation, because the crowds visiting the zoo have been thinner than they were in the summer, TSG has been able to close down one sidewalk and work regular hours of 7:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
The shade structures themselves are composed of structurally sound material and are appropriate for safe use. As per the specifications outlined by the County of Essex, the durable shade structures are made of corrosion-resistant metals, with fabrics that include UV stabilizers and fire retardants, to ensure safety and long-term use.
For this project, TSG also installed asphalt paving, stamped concrete, and granite block curbing. TSG relocated a directional sign and placed in new signage, as well as coordinated work required for an electrical box to be moved to a new location.
Earlier this summer, TSG completed a second project at the Turtle Back Zoo: renovations to the prairie dog exhibit. To ameliorate visitors’ experience at the zoo, the County of Essex issued a bid for a host of improvements to that particular exhibit. At the core of the project was the installation of brand-new glass walls. The new panels, six feet in height, allow observers a closer (and unobstructed) view of the animals within the exhibit. Ideal for curious, animal-loving youngsters, the setup of the updated exhibit provides children with a better perspective of the animals so that they can study the animals in greater detail.
TSG commenced the renovations to the prairie dog exhibit during the spring, and completed the project within approximately four months. The enhancements included a full-scale replacement of the concrete pathways surrounding the exhibit, as well as the addition of new split-wood fencing encircling the exhibit and the installation of a children’s seating area. Additionally, as a fun and interactive play activity for children, the prairie dog exhibit features an existing series of tunnels—on “Prairie Dog Hill”—that children can crawl through. As part of the recent upgrade, TSG cleaned these “burrows” and spruced them up with a fresh coat of paint.
“Thanks to the appealing, state-of-the-art exhibits and attractions at the Turtle Back Zoo, the Zoo hosted a record number of visitors last year—for the first time, attendance surpassed 700,000 overall,” said Lisa Shauger. “We are honored to have played a role in the continuous cycle of innovation and improvement that makes the Zoo progressively more kid-friendly and increasingly more attractive to visitors.”