Making a Splash
Splash Island at Lake Gregory in Crestline, Calif.
By Joseph Bush
California Parks Company wanted to attract attention to Lake Gregory, in Crestline, Calif., 90 minutes from Los Angeles, to draw more visitors, and to boost its other revenue streams at the lake, like kayak rentals and food sales. CPC wanted to, well, make a splash.
The company specializes in services in the hospitality and resort management industry, including food services, lodging and meetings, retail management, parking systems, recreation facilities management and fee collection. It needed to update and upgrade Lake Gregory facilities to give the location a chance to compete as a recreation destination in southern California.
CPC decided to invest in inflatable waterpark equipment from three companies—Aquaglide, Wibit and Rave Sports—filling 13,755 square feet of the lake with trampolines, slides, climbing structures, bridges and a rocking teeter-totter-like piece.
Named Splash Island and opened last summer, it accounted for a 25,000-visitor rise in attendance over the previous year, according to general manager Chris Freeman. Freeman said the undertaking was so successful, CPC plans to open another Splash Island attraction at another of the lakes it manages.
"We wanted to offer an attraction that no one else had," Freeman said. "We tried to design something that would bring people in from LA, San Diego and Ventura counties. When we got the word out that we had this great water-play structure, we were getting people from two or three hours away coming to our park."
Freeman said even local people either discovered or rediscovered the manmade lake in the San Bernardino National Forest.
"The county parks and rec kind of let the property go and the local populace didn't even use the lake a lot of the time," Freeman said. "When we came in and started fixing the infrastructure, we had a lot of people just locally just come and utilize the lake who hadn't in previous years, saying, 'We haven't been to the lake in five years, but since you fixed it up my kids can't stop talking about it.'
"There was a little bit of blowback from the traditionalists who thought we were taking away from the natural beauty of things, but as the season went on it was looked at like, 'OK, it's there and it's one little part of the lake and the rest of the lake is fine.'"
Andy Berens, sales manager for Verona, Wis.-based Commercial Recreation Specialists (CRS), the company that guided the Splash Island process, said CPC not only got fun from its equipment choices, it got "Wow."
"They're tall, big, a little gaudy," Berens said of the Splash Island playthings.
CRS specializes in Water-Based Family Entertainment Centers, or WBFEC, a customized system of inflatables, as well as other services that help develop water-based recreation areas.
Berens said that because safety is the top priority, anchoring and lifeguard systems must be designed for each client's unique area and attendance volume.
The difficulty with Lake Gregory's anchoring was that each manufacturer had its own suggestions. CRS made its recommendations, and CPC created its own anchors to limit toe-stubbing and shin-banging. To those considering such an investment, Freeman suggests not underestimating the time it takes to set up and take down the equipment.
"We thought we could have these up in a week, and it turned out it took almost a month to really get everything put properly and anchored properly," Freeman said. "It's difficult, but it's worth it. It was a new experience for everybody."