After three years, Cloverdale is going back to wood chips in parks
At the Cloverdale City Council meeting on Aug. 14, the council voted in favor of providing funding to replace the rubber mulch in Cloverdale parks with wood chips. The approval came after community members voiced concern about the possible health ramifications of the mulch and an ad hoc committee was formed to discuss the issue.
While the city is still finalizing the details of the replacement project, the council approved a budget amendment of $107,743, the estimated amount to cover the overall cost of replacing the four city parks’ mulch. Despite the budget amendment to fund the project being approved, the city will still have to bring a contractor agreement back to the council at a future date.
One of the community members who expressed concern about the mulch, Maureen Nettleton, was relieved when she heard that the budget amendment was passed. She approached the council about her concerns after repeatedly noticing the smell of rubber tires while taking her kids to the park. Nettleton has two twins in kindergarten, a 7-year-old and a 15-year-old. While they usually go to Vintage Meadows Park — she said her kids love the play structure there — they frequent Cloverdale’s other three parks as well.
“When we would go to the park I would notice the smell of rubber tires and I thought, ‘That can’t be good.’ It would almost give me a headache when I was there, there was something off about it,” Nettleton said. “I would talk about it to my husband and he would say, ‘They’re hands get all black, they touch their face and their face gets black.’ We’ve seen babies putting it in their mouth at the park. I talked to other moms and the park and they said they didn’t like it either.”
After looking online, Nettleton found multiple online groups of parents who were able to get rubber mulch out of their parks.
While rubber mulch made from tires is being used around the state in parks, Nettleton said that the independent research she did was unsettling and vague when it came to the possible impact that the rubber can have on the health of children. Included in her research was speaking to someone from the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment.
“He said he didn’t have anything definitive if it’s safe or not,” she said. “That was scary to me because my children are playing on it.”
According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency, the Consumer Product Safety Commission is currently working on gathering results from testing rubber tire use on playgrounds — however, the study primarily focused on the use of recycled tire crumb in structure surfaces. It also lists the CPSC as recommending the use of shredded recycled tires for the purpose of shock absorption and playground use.
According to Assistant City Manager Kevin Thompson, the city received a grant from CalRecycle in 2016 to put the recycled mulch in all of Cloverdale’s parks.
CalRecycle lists the city as being awarded grants for its Tire-Derived Product Grant Program during the 2014-15 ($25,519 to install and replace mulch at Furber Park) and 2015-16 ($39,571 to install mulch at Clark Park, also referred to as Tarman Park) grant cycles.
Once the contractor agreement is OK’d by the city, the 950 cubic yards of rubber mulch will be replaced with park safe wood chips.
The goal would be to get all of the mulch in city parks replaced at once, Thompson said. However, it depends on the selected contractor. If the mulch ends up being replaced park-by-park, City Park and Tarman Park will be replaced first, followed by Furber Park and Vintage Meadows Park.
“For me it’ll be a relief that I can go to the park and not worry that my kids are being exposed,” Nettleton said. “It includes all of the other kids in the community, too … Now I’ll have peace of mind that our community is safe and we’re taking care of the children in our community. They deserve it.”