Swinging from the Trees
L.A. Times
June 15, 2008
Antonio Cuevas
Artist-Builder Barbara Butler designs treehouse and treeforts.

With summer here, play set designers and manufacturers kick the business of play into high gear to meet the season’s demand for playhouses, treehouses and play structures.

“Spring and summer is definitely peak season,” said Barbara Butler, a San Francisco based artist-builder specializing in the design and construction of custom play structures (www.barbarabutler.com). She has been combining kid fantasy and imagination with architectural know-how for 18 years.

She said the opportunity of different kinds of play sets occurs in cycles. “Tree houses are wildly popular,” she said. In addition to tree houses, Butler builds tree forts, which combine play house and play structure features-bridges, swings, slides and ramps. “I like to combine play structure features,” she said. “A play structure is more than one story, with features for athletic activities.”

A Butler playhouse includes plenty of details designed to maximize fun—secret hiding places, escape doors and climbing features. Her shop’s custom and pre-designed play sets are modular, ready to be assembled on site.

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission provides a checklist to help parents create a safe home playground in the backyard.

Install and maintain surfacing to absorb falls and tumbles. “The easiest and most affordable option is bark chip,” said Butler. “It’s resilient surfacing material. Pea gravel is also good at absorbing surface material such as wood chips or shredded rubber. “A new popular option is rubber bark chip,” Butler said. “It’s made from recycled tires…and you can get it in different colors.”

  •  Install safety surfacing at least 6 feet in all directions around the play equipment. For swings, surfacing should extend, in back and front, twice the height of the suspending bar. Butler recommended inspecting the surface material at least annually; making sure it hasn’t become compacted.
  • Never attach—or allow children to attach—ropes, jump ropes, clotheslines or pet leashes to play equipment; youngsters can get caught in them or even strangle.
  • Check for spaces that could trap children, such as openings in guardrails or between ladder rungs. The commission recommends these spaces should measure less than 3.5 inches or more than 9 inches. “Try not to create dead ends because it encourages kids to find potentially unsafe maneuvers,” Butler added.
  • Equip play set platforms and ramps with guardrails to help youngsters avoid losing grip and falling. “You ant kids to always have an easy was down and way up,” she said.
  • Check for jagged edges, sharp points and loose bolts.
  • Remove tripping hazards such as rocks and tree stumps from the general play area.

 For Media & Publicity Inquiries, or to arrange an interview, please contact:
Dana Wynn
Sarah Hall Productions, Inc.
145 Hudson Street, Suite 404
New York, NY 10013
Email: Dana at shpny.com
Phone: (212) 597-9200
Fax: (212) 529-3171
Suzanne Butler
Barbara Butler Artist-Builder, Inc.
325 South Maple Avenue, #37
South San Francisco, CA 94080
Email: suzanne@barbarabutler.com
Phone: (415) 864-6840
Fax: (212) 529-3171