WEBSTER GROVES, Mo. – Do you remember summer days as a kid, kicking off your shoes and running around barefoot? Did you ever stop to think how hot the ground was?
A Webster Groves mother didn't, until she said something at a local park that's designed to keep kids safe nearly burned her child.
Now she’s warning others to be careful.
Enjoying a sunny day at Tilles Park with her kids is one of the things Nikki Weddle loves about being a stay at home mom.
“We try to get out a few times a week,” said Weddle.
Her 5-year-old daughter, Livy, and her 3-year-old son, Jackson, might not always see eye to eye. But when it comes to the park, they both share a favorite part.
“The swings!” said Livy.
On a visit earlier this week, Jackson and Livy were playing at the splash pad when, as 3-year-olds tend to do, Jackson suddenly decided he wanted to go back to his favorite spot.
“My son came over to swing and he wasn't wearing shoes because he was playing in the water,” said Weddle.
The swings were only a few steps away. But Weddle said the rubber safety surface beneath them held a rude surprise for her little guy.
“It was really hot on his feet. He was doing a dance like his feet were burning. I immediately turned his feet over to look to see if there were blisters. Luckily there weren’t. But they were red.”
5 On Your Side wanted to know just how hot the surfaces at the park can get. With 95 degrees on the thermometer and a bright sun in the sky, we used an infrared thermometer to test a number of surfaces. We started with the gray concrete on the playground and got a reading of 123 degrees.
We all remember from science class that dark surfaces tend to be hotter than light. So, we tested the blacktop beside the playground. It turned out to be 147 degrees.
But the real eye-opener was that rubberized surface. It topped 170 degrees. The burn team at St. Louis Children's Hospital said third-degree burns can start in just five seconds at temperatures of only 140 degrees.
“I was very surprised to know that the surface the kids walk on was hotter than the pavement,” said Weddle.
The park has signs warning people to only wear flat-soled shoes on the rubber. Weddle would also like to see warnings that the surface could be hot, especially near the splash pad.
“Because the kids are running around barefoot.”
The bottom line, she said, on a hot day it's a good idea to wear those shoes any time you step away from the water.
St. Louis County Parks Director Gary Bess said in a statement Friday:
"In the interest of safety, we began using various rubberized surfaces in county parks over 20 years ago. We have no reports of any heat-related injuries, but we will certainly consider any measures that will make our parks safer."
We're told those measures could include warning signs.