Playground shade structure underway to help Presidio kids beat the heat

PRESIDIO — At last week’s regular meeting, the Presidio Municipal Development District selected local contractors Rodriguez Building Company to design and install a shade structure over the public playground. The playground — located next to the municipal pool and the Presidio Activities Center — sees plenty of action in the colder months, but shade is crucial in town, where summer temperatures regularly hit 110 degrees.

“I mean, if we were anyplace else in the country, it might not be such a big deal. But I’ve driven by at eight o’clock on a July evening and that’s the first time kids can physically touch the playground because it was so darn hot — yeah, that’s unacceptable,” said PMDD Executive Director Jeran Stephens. “We need shade.” 

At Monday’s meeting, Stephens presented a bid by Ramon Rodriguez of Rodriguez Building Company for a large shade structure, measuring 50 feet by 80 feet wide. Around its perimeter it will measure 18 feet tall, with a maximum height of 25 feet in order to fully protect the slide. All in all, the canopy will provide approximately 4000 square feet of shade. 

Prices on necessary materials have gone up since the start of the COVID pandemic, and both the contractors and PMDD have had to curtail their original wish lists for the project. The group’s original plan included rain gutters along the shade canopy to eventually install a water catchment system, but that secondary project will have to wait until the price of steel goes down. The water catchment system would allow for a patch of grass to grow near the playground, providing additional space to play and cutting down on the potential for dust devils during the dry spring months.

The cost of the project was bid at $38,500, which was rounded up to $41,800 after Rodriguez introduced the idea of installing rubber bumpers on the structure’s posts to prevent children from accidentally injuring themselves on the metal poles. “It’s the most realistic proposal we got,” said Board President Terry Bishop. “It’s only going to get more expensive if we wait.”

Choosing a color for the roof was the meeting’s most contentious topic. Board Member Patrick Manian pointed out that since the structure can be seen from Presidio’s main drag, making it bright and attractive should be a top priority. Stephens rejected a palette of drab desert colors and winnowed the choices down to turquoise and a bright blue. “It really mirrors the desert sky,” said Board Secretary Lizette Rohana. 

In a narrow vote, the blue won out. Rodriguez estimated that as soon as he could get all his materials in order, the project would take 30 days, start to finish, and his bid includes the current cost of labor and materials, so there shouldn’t be any surprises on the final invoice. The shade structure does not include shade for the sandbox area, but PMDD hopes to apply for a grant to create a separate shade structure for that area of the playground. 

The project has been in the works since October. PMDD has also explored the possibility of building a skate park and additional bike paths, in the interest of expanding outdoor recreation for Presidio residents. They’re hoping to see a trickle-down impact making Presidio more competitive as a destination for families in the wider Big Bend tourism industry. 

“I think one of the things that sets us apart is, yeah, we’re not as wealthy as some of the surrounding communities. But we are very family oriented,” Stephen explained. She and her board hope that by expanding opportunities for Presidio children to have fun, eventually people visiting from elsewhere will begin to see Presidio as a family-friendly haven in the Big Bend.