OPINION COLUMNS

What’s cool like a pool but better for getting wetter?

By Brian Knox | Published Thursday, September 1, 2011

OK, we get it. It’s hot.

Now that we’ve established that fact, the next question is, “How do we cool off?”

Brian Knox

Brian Knox

We haven’t had much in the form of rain, so it seems we are looking at man-made options. If you live on the west side of the county, you’ve got public pools in Bridgeport and Runaway Bay.

But what about those who live over in the eastern half of the county?

I hear this question asked most summers, but it seems I’ve heard it more this year, probably because of the near-record heat we’ve been experiencing: “Why doesn’t Decatur have a pool?”

Sure, a pool would be nice, but I’d like to suggest something a little different. It would accomplish the same thing as a pool – namely get people wet, thus cooling them off. But I think it would be an even better deal for the city of Decatur (or Alvord, or Rhome or Boyd for that matter).

A splash pad.

I’m no splash pad expert. I’ve actually only been to one. But I can tell you that the review from my then-3-year-old daughter and her similarly-aged cousins was a big thumbs up.

And it wasn’t in a “big city.” It was actually just a few miles from my hometown of Itasca in the city of Grandview, a town roughly the size of Rhome.

I don’t know how much it would cost to put in a splash pad, but I would think it would be less than the cost for a pool. And after it was built, since there would not be standing water (all the water simply flows into a drain) there wouldn’t be a need for lifeguard staffing. You wouldn’t have the threat of drowning, maybe just of someone slipping and bumping their head – a possibility at a pool as well.

It would be a regional draw, and wouldn’t be in direct competition with the pools on the west side of the county. People who want to swim could still head west. Those that simply wanted to play in the fancy sprinkler system could head east.

Don’t know how to swim? That’s no problem with a splash pad.

And if there was some way to build it in or next to an existing city park, how great would that be? Couldn’t you just see kids playing, and then heading over to the splash pad to cool off?

My first thought as a possible location would be Harmon Park. You’ve already got parking, two baseball fields, a playground and a skate park. The city even owns a vacant lot just north of the current parking lot. On the downside, there is already quite a bit of vandalism at this park, and parking might be an issue, especially during the times when baseball games are being played. Also, until the economy improves, it might be difficult to find the money for such a project.

But still, you’ve got to dream, right?

You’ve seen the “look local” theme promoted on this page in previous issues of the Messenger. Why not look local for water recreation? Instead of traveling to another county to visit a water park, you and your wallet could stay right here in Wise County.

City Manager Brett Shannon said the city has had preliminary discussions about such a facility, and his main concerns were two I listed above: vandalism and location. But it sounds like the city is at least leaving the door open for future consideration.

I’m still holding out hope that such a place could be built in Decatur or somewhere else in Wise County. Perhaps one day the dream can be a reality.

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