Conservation Commission Encourages Alternative to Rubber Product for Playground at New School

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Corkeen, an alternative to poured in place rubber. Photo: Corkeen / Facebook

The Amherst Conservation Commission began its process of vetting the new elementary school project this week. Discussions centered on the site’s wetlands and stormwater management. The video can be viewed here (the hearing on the school starts at ~35 minutes).

Chair Michelle Labbe questioned the design team about concerns regarding the planned use of Poured in Place Rubber for the playground surface. “This is relevant to our jurisdiction because there is a storm water drain from the playgrounds that empties into riverfront and into bordering land subject to flooding. It’s very close to riverfront area which is a critical cold water fishery. This type of material is known to have contaminants that aren’t good for people or ecology and that is the concern.” She referenced a letter that the commission received that suggested some alternative materials, described in a recent report from the Toxic Use Reduction Institute, that are not composed of used car tires and do not pose the same risks. “My question to you all is how have those been considered and are there ways to get away from that poured rubber base?”

Rick Rice from DiNisco Design acknowledged that they were made aware of a cork-based product at their most recent meeting and had begun to look into this relatively new product. He noted that “as far as storm drainage goes, it (cork) is at least as permeable if not more than the poured in place rubber that we’ve based the design on.”

Margaret Wood of Anser, the owner’s project manager, added that it is a Portuguese product called Corkeen and a company in Baton Rouge installs it up and down the East Coast, including a school in northeastern Massachusetts. “There’s another project underway so we’re hoping to get a look at that. I’ve left message for the landscape architect who worked on that project.”

Chair Labbe responded “That’s good to hear.” The hearing was continued until the Commission’s next meeting. The Elementary School Building Committee will meet next in January 2024.

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2 thoughts on “Conservation Commission Encourages Alternative to Rubber Product for Playground at New School

  1. Apparently Corkeen is 90% cork and 10% something else which I could not find specified anywhere.

    Does any member of our community know what is in Corkeen beside the 90% that is cork?

  2. As a “unitary surface”, Corkeen is made up of cork plus binders and adhesives that hold the cork pieces together and create a smooth top surface. These are usually some kind of urethanes. The school building committee has expressed a preference for a unitary surface (all of which use urethanes) rather than loose fill , like engineered wood fiber. This report from the Toxic Use Reduction Institute provides information about all the different choices for playground surfacing: https://www.uml.edu/docs/Playground_surfacing_report_Dec2023_tcm18-377890.pdf

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