Cash for a splash: Decatur EDC looks into building water park to enhance ‘quality of life’

By Bob Buckel | Published Saturday, August 23, 2014
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It’s not a pool, but it’s water – and when it’s 100 degrees outside, a place to get wet is all most kids are looking for.

By next summer, Decatur may have one.

Cool Wet Fun

COOL, WET FUN – Youngsters huddle together under a dome of water at Springtown’s Splash Park, located in the city’s park at 7-3 Walnut Creek Drive. The park, a version of which Decatur is considering building, provides water recreation without many of the drawbacks of a municipal swimming pool. Messenger Photo by Joe Duty

Several board members of the Decatur Economic Development Corp., along with city personnel, visited the city of Springtown’s new Splash Park a few weeks ago. After a discussion at the EDC board’s meeting Thursday, Decatur City Manager Brett Shannon was asked to move forward with it as a city project, to be funded by the EDC.

The facility, which just opened this year, offers a variety of water features that spray, soak and splash as many as 40 or 50 kids at a time, on a pad surrounded by a drain. Kids can get wet – but they can’t go underwater and consequently, splash parks face none of the water treatment or safety issues that come with a pool.

The water sprays out, does its job, then runs off.

“I think this would be a good project for us to undertake,” said Decatur Mayor Martin Woodruff, a member of the EDC board. “It says something about our commitment to maintain a quality of life for our residents.”

It was EDC Director Mary Poch who first suggested that construction of a splash park might be an acceptable use of EDC funds – as a “quality-of-life” facility that would boost her ability to entice industrial clients to move to the city.

Since then, Shannon and Public Works Director Earl Smith have been checking into such facilities. The Springtown Splash Park is the closest one, and as a new installation it has some state-of-the-art components, like automatic shutoffs and multiple cameras for both security and in case of liability issues.

It cost about $450,000 to build, Shannon said, and includes four picnic areas, restrooms, fencing and a small building for pumps and equipment.

The city charges residents $2 for a day pass (it’s $4 for non-residents) and season passes can be bought for $60 per household – up to five people – or $95 for non-residents. The park is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday-Saturday during the summer, and 1-6 p.m. Sunday.

From 6-9 each day, it is available for rent for private parties.

One thing Springtown’s pricetag did not include was a water recycling system – something Decatur would definitely want to add.

“They’re using about 85,000 gallons [of water] a day,” Shannon said. “I’d sure hate to see that go into the sewer.”

Shannon said there are several ways to re-use the water. It can be filtered and cycled back into the park, or stored for irrigation for nearby athletic fields or the landscaped areas of the park itself.

“It’s not overly expensive to do,” he said. Including a recycling system bumped Decatur’s estimate from $525,000 to $550,000.

EDC board member Jay Davidson said it would likely pay for itself in a very short time.

“It’s a two-way deal, because if you’re not using it, you have to use that much more water to water your park,” he said. “And if you add it to your wastewater, that adds to the volume in your treatment plant. So you’re kind of doubling up on it.”

Springtown welcomes people to bring food, drinks, coolers and lawn chairs – although glass containers are forbidden. Children under 12 must be supervised by an adult, and non-slip footwear is recommended.

“I was very impressed with it,” Davidson said. “I thought they finished it up well with the sidewalks, restrooms and picnic tables.”

Shannon said it complicates matters that Smith is leaving at the end of the month, but he noted that it’s really not a complex project.

“There’s a seam right around the edge, and the cost of the splash park is what is inside that, and the piping into the building,” he said. “I don’t think it took but a couple or three months.”

He said if the board wants to proceed with the project, it should be no problem getting it in place by next summer – probably in Renshaw Park where there’s plenty of parking and space.

“The good news is, it’s not like building a civic center or a fire station or some big structure that takes 12-18 months just to build it,” he said.

Shannon got a clear go-ahead, and it’s likely the next step will be a discussion with the city council.

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