HOA Playground Maintenance 101: Much More Than Mulch

Ben Collinsworth

Children living in a homeowners’ association (HOA) community and their playgrounds go together like peanut butter and jelly. Nothing beats having a nearby, safe area for children to gather and enjoy the outdoors together while their parents visit with each other.

However, safety is a huge concern when it comes to any outdoor play structure and the surrounding landscape. An HOA must keep safety in mind when hiring a landscape professional to assist them in maintaining its playground.

While mulch is a very large factor in HOA playground upkeep and safety (we’ll go more into mulch below), it’s not the only consideration. There are other factors that impact HOA playground safety that your landscape professional can help you address.


Mulch it Up

According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, roughly 60 to 70 percent of injuries sustained by kids using playground equipment are due to falls on the ground. Because of this higher risk of falling, there is an emphasis on providing a protective ground surface on playgrounds. In fact, studies have shown that the risk of injury can be minimized by maintaining the appropriate thickness and shock absorption of surface materials. Unlike concrete and asphalt, mulch has the ability to absorb the initial shock from a fall.

Rubber mulch

However, mulch is available in a wide variety of types, textures and colors, so it can be challenging to understand which mulch is best for your HOA playground. Hardwood trees, such as chestnut, hickory, oak and birch, create a sturdy mulch for playgrounds. Heavier hardwood mulches, whether shredded or chipped, are ideal for sloped areas because they hold their place during windy and rainy weather. Lightweight shredded or chipped mulches from cypress or pine trees work well in flat, well-drained areas.

When using mulch for an HOA playground, double-shredded or triple-shredded mulch layered in depths ranging from 6 to 12 inches helps prevent injuries, and is what the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission recommends. Stay away from big bark chip mulches or single-grind mulches because of their rough cuts and lack of absorption for falls.

Rubber mulch, made from scrapped or recycled tires, is also an option. This type of mulch is being use in synthetic turf sports fields, running tracks, parks, golf courses and playgrounds. Rubber mulch is said to drain water quickly versus creating puddles, providing a safe, non-slippery play surface for children. It can also adequately absorb falls.

Mulch also helps keep weeds at bay, which can become another safety concern in the form of tripping hazards, as well as an unappealing and unsightly mess.

Annual mulch installation on playgrounds is an important add-on service to any HOA maintenance contract to ensure and promote ongoing safety.

Safety is Rule No. 1

HOA playgrounds also need other standard safety checks to ensure a fun and worry-free zone for children.

Signage should be clearly visible and weed and branch free. It should also be free from any damage and installed properly. Your landscape professional can assist with this task.

Your landscape professional can also keep trimming and pruning of plants around the playground updated to ensure proper visibility of any signage. This visibility extends to parental visibility from seating areas and homes as well. Keeping playground plants and trees well-maintained and cleaning up any leafy debris is important for a well-kept and overall safe and efficient HOA playground.

hoa playground

Since children can play at various hours, ensuring landscape lighting is installed and working properly on the HOA playground as well as on pathways to and from the playground is also crucial for safe passage, as well as to avoid tripping hazards.

Another safety element can be controlling fire ants and preventing children from getting nasty bites. We can provide an HOA with a proposal for Top Choice fire ant control for a playground’s grassy areas around playgrounds, pools and any high-traffic spots. This is more effective than spot-treating mounds with ant bait, which can be too little too late when it comes to preventing children from running into a mound and getting bit. The reason why? Because Top Choice treats the soil and prevents ants from appearing for up to one year.

Some of these services may be add-ons to a traditional HOA maintenance contract. Ask your landscape professional for details to ensure you’re getting what you need to keep you HOA playground safe.

Time to Play!

As you can see, there’s a lot that goes into the maintenance and upkeep of a Texas HOA playground. Keep your HOA playground safe and up-to-date with these tips, so the homeowners can enjoy the space for years to come. Contact Native Land Design for a free onsite consultation at 512-918-2270 or fill out our contact form online today.

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Phasmatisnox at English Wikipedia [GFDL or CC BY 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

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Ben Collinsworth


Before Ben founded Native Land Design in 2001, he earned a Bachelor's degree in Horticulture and Landscape Architecture from Texas A&M University. He’s an active member of ASLA, HBA of Austin, NHBA, PLANET, and BOMA. Ben, his wife and their three children reside in the Cedar Park area.

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