Splash Pads - Making the Leap
Author: Susan L. Weaver, P.E., LEED AP
The transition from public pools to splash pads is making a wave among municipalities. The operation and maintenance of splash pads offer a multitude of benefits and operational savings for communities looking for alternatives to public pool facilities. Eric Bacon, Engineer for the Town of Camillus, who worked with B&L on installing their new spray park added, “Many towns are faced with the question of what to do with their aging pool, and when offered the option to install a new facility, the pros by far outweigh the cons.” Designs for towns or cities are customizable to fit budget limits, available space and ADA requirements. Various water-play features engage all age groups and encourage freedom of play.
Splash pads can reduce operational costs each year, through implementation of a once-through water system, rather than a chemically treated and filtered recirculation system. The features use potable water that is not recirculated or reused, reducing the risk of contamination, and the costs associated with expensive chemical treatment and maintenance of circulation system equipment. Splash pads can also eliminate the need for trained full-time lifeguards, which provides additional savings.
The sustainable splash pad innovations also enable increased energy savings. Constructed of durable metals and concrete, parks are built to withstand inclement weather with minimal clean-up or maintenance. Since many municipalities opt for a once-through water system, energy expended by pumps to recirculate is conserved. Water savings can also be recognized with the elimination of high volume backwash cycles necessary for continuous operation of pool filtration systems. To further assist in reducing costs, splash pad designs include programmable controls that monitor and adjust water flow, implement automatic timer operation and respond to sensory touch activation. From working with B&L on the Town of Camillus’s splash pad, Mr. Bacon suggests, “My advice would be to visit as many facilities as possible before deciding exactly what you would like your facility to be. I would also highly recommend securing an experienced and qualified design engineer. It’s invaluable.”
Mr. Bacon also noted the spike in attendance since the new addition, “In the last years of the pool, attendance had dwindled, but when the splash pad opened, the park truly became revitalized. On the weekends the splash pad is full of families.” The splash parks foster an environment where families can relax in their community, features such as shaded picnic areas and bike racks can be incorporated to create a functional recreational center. Water features can be scaled to different age groups, to encourage intuitive activity for all. Interactive water features enable kids to participate together or compete with one another. With a concrete base, designed to prevent standing water, toddlers can play autonomously and safely, while offering greater peace of mind for parents.
The splash pad trend is rising, and for good reason. Municipalities with splash pads have noticed a significant increase in attendance since installation. Their sustainable designs require minimum upkeep, they provide efficient, cost-saving solutions, and seem to foster a renewed sense of community.
Camillus Splash Pad, 2016
•Once-through portable water system, no chemical treatment or circulation systems
• Adjacent shade features with seating
•Nearby playground areas for toddlers, families and children
•70 feet x 70 feet area with multiple automatic and foot-activated spray features
•Awarded the 2016 Exceptional Facility Design Award by both the CNY Recreation and Parks Society and the NYS Reaction and Parks Society