Who is responsible for unsafe playgrounds in Rīga?

On Sunday, a young man suffered a head injury at a Rīga municipal mini-football field. Part of the goal detached from the structure and hit the youngster in the head. This isolated case marks one of the problems in Rīga municipality – there are many unsafe sports and recreation areas in Rīga, and the issue is rarely addressed, Latvian Television reported Monday.

On Sunday, March 3, night, a young man posted a picture on social networks showing how a structure detached at a football field just ten meters away from Rīga 33rd High School. Although the square is not technically a school property, on Monday the school leadership had had enough and the field was cordoned.

The young man who got injured was hospitalized but luckily later discharged.

Ināra Kostina, principal of Rīga 33rd High School, said she first wrote a submission to the responsible Rīga City Council department in 2017 requesting that the playground be restored. Over the years, children and residents have done it themselves and tried to save something there. There are bindings with ropes and fishing nets. The structures are wobbly.

The 33rd High School principal said the field had not been used in PE classes for a long time. Students have also been told it is dangerous. Dangerously long screws fall out of the rotting plywood behind the fishing nets.

Kostina said: "We understand it is unsafe and we are not using it either. A representative from the [Riga City Council] Property Department came last week, he also took pictures; what's next – we'll see."

Every year, since 2017, the school has sent submissions to the Riga City Council Infrastructure Department, waiting for some action. The property Department said the works were to be done by the school itself.

Māris Mežzīle, Head of the Construction Administration of Riga City Council Infrastructure Department, said: "This day-to-day service, maintenance, and survey should be done by the institution. As with any other facility in the territory. The municipal property is also a school, but the use is the responsibility of the institution."

In that square, the department's responsibility is limited to covering, which was maintained and last restored in 2022, said Mežzīle.

This is far from the only area of its kind. More than 30 football fields were built in 2010 and all are about to reach 15 years of service. What will be done with this and other fields is unclear. Around €10 million has been allocated to the property department to renovate sports and playgrounds, but distribution will be decided within this year.

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