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Lawton parent finds potentially unsafe conditions at Kids' Zone

Lawton_Erica Mendez lives directly behind the Kids' Zone on West 38th Street in Lawton, and says she has found rusty nails and broken fence posts at the park with children playing around them.  "At Kids' Zone there is parts of the fence that are missing, and parts of the playground towers that are missing parts," she said.  She says she is worried her kids - or someone else's - will be injured.  The City of Lawton's Parks and Recreation Division says it is doing the best it can with the staff it has. 

Mendez called 7News after she kept finding problems at the playground - problems that could send a child to the emergency room.  Five-year-old Nicholas and 10-year-old Alexander love the park.  It's only a short walk from their backyard, and while it's supposed to be the best playground for miles around, it has problems.

It didn't take 7News long to learn what sparked Mendez's concern.  Before she could say anything, Zach and Alexander slipped through a broken fence post to get inside the playground.  "It can puncture their skin, give them an infection.  They could end up falling and breaking a bone," she said.

She says she is having difficulty getting the city to respond.  The city says as soon is it fixes one problem, another surfaces.  "Kids' Zone is used," said Gerald Cartlett with the Parks Division.  "Sad to say this time of year - with spring break and everything - it's packed every day, but sad to say we have vandalism every night."

Catlett covers all of the parks in Lawton, and says he responds to parents like Mendez as fast as he can.  "If there's a major problem I'll send somebody out to quarantine the area," he said.  He says they keep track of problem areas.  "We log everything," he said.  "We've got inventory sheets we log problems in."

Meanwhile, Mendez says she is going to keep a close eye on her own children, but worries about daycare centers and their kids who use the playground.  "That's usually one person that watches 30 or 40 kids - you can't watch them all at once," she said.

The city says it has about 10 people maintaining 81 parks, and that it is not enough personnel.  There are plans to build another Kids' Zone in Lawton's Elmer Thomas Park, but Mendez says she thinks the city should get a handle on its current playgrounds before a new one is built. 

Catlett says the new parks will be made of plastic instead of wood, which will cut down on broken pieces and loose nails.  Some local realtors are trying to raise $400,000 to build the new Kids' Zone.  Cartlett says they need at least two more people to help maintain another Kids' Zone.

Count on 7News to keep you updated.

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