March 09, 2010

Play Haters! Close this playground, or else

Angry rubber ballThe sound of kids laughing on a playground is music to our ears. Not so for two residents of Douglas, Michigan.

The play haters:
Playground neighbors Kate and Heather.

How they’re endangering play:
Since 2006, Kate and Heather have been fighting to close the playground at an Early Childhood Center next to their home. In response to their complaints about noise, the state of Michigan recently ordered the Saugatuck Public Schools (SPS) to “immediately cease and desist” from using the playground.

The back story:
To argue for the playground’s closure, Kate and Heather claim that it never appeared in city or state plans for the Early Childhood Center. SPS counters that though the playground was a later addition to the site, it was inspected and approved by city officials and that state sign-off wasn’t required. But the state changed its position after Kate and Heather filed their complaints.

In their words:
Kate says, “The noise from the playground is deafening. It’s unbearable.” Heather adds, “It just seems like they [SPS] just don’t care about the people that live around the schools.”

Why we’re outraged:
It goes without saying that we love playgrounds, but we understand that it’s not always a picnic living next to one. Still, by the time Michigan issued its cease-and-desist order, the playground was only being used for 30 minutes a day. Public records show that SPS took steps to comply with the newly imposed state regulations and also tried to address Kate and Heather’s complaints, even building a sound-barrier fence.

The icing on the cake:
Kate and Heather installed a video camera aimed at the playground to “protect their home from vandals” and to “document noise,” according to The Allegan County News. When the school blocked their camera with a sign, citing privacy concerns, the women merely moved the camera -- and continued to do so each time the school moved their sign. They also posted the videos to YouTube to broadcast the unbearably deafening noises emitted by children enjoying healthy, outdoor play.

What you can do:
Help save play in Michigan! Join our online petition to contact state official Todd Cordill, who issued the cease-and-desist order, and express your support for continued use of the Early Childhood Center playground.

Is anyone in your community endangering play? Help us find next week's play hater! Email your tips to

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