Feature Article - April 2013
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Splash Down!

Splashpads Arriving in Style

By Kelli Anderson

In the case of Edson Splash Park, the water system being designed there most definitely has flexibility in mind. "The town decided to use a potable water system in this design with future plans to recapture the water and reuse it for irrigation in the park," said Shelley Robinson, a splash park sales representative working closely with the town on this project. "When deciding on what type of system you will require, first check with local parks departments to discuss their local standards, then meet with a splash park specialist and discuss your vision. In that discussion the overall usage of your splash park design will be considered to determine what type of system will be most effective and best suited your project."

Used water from flow-through systems is seldom wasted (thanks to our current culture's heightened interest in being eco-friendly and financially frugal). As a result, used water is often designed to drain into a percolation system like a leach field where water is directed into an underground gravel pit where it slowly seeps back into the water aquifer. Even for less porous clay soils where they may have to drill several hundred feet to drain the water back into an aquifer, it is still often less expensive than a recirculation system.

However, even with enclosed systems that require filtration and chemical treatment (usually the best choice when high-use situations call for over 150 gallons of water per minute), there is still a cost savings when compared to the costs of the much higher water volume and treatments of running a pool.

To decide on which system is best to use, spray park and splashpad manufacturers can help determine which system is best, but it is essential that a community or facility first talk to local departments about standards and regulations.

Multifunctional Benefits

Although at first glance more water restrictions and regulations demanding that communities do more with less may seem like bad news, the fact is that greater restrictions have actually become a catalyst for creative problem-solving and innovative design.

In the case of the Oxford community in Michigan, their out-of-the-box ingenuity has resulted in a splash park that does far more than entertain. The splash park uses free well water that does not require filtering or treatment. And once it is used in the splash park, it is drained away underground to a water retention pond that in winter is frozen for skating and in summer is used to irrigate the formerly water-starved ballfields. It is even available as a resource for the fire department.

These creative applications were the result of an evolution of ideas that began with local input. "It's crucial, like any project to do your homework and to talk to other professions to recommend specific companies," Davis said about their planning process. "We had a committee driven by people in our community with a lot of input from families and children including those with disabilities who got involved."

With so many invested in the concept, the result was a colorful park tailored to the wants and needs of a variety of children, including those with physical and cognitive disabilities. But whether your approach is a test group or community group or doing a splashpad study (as the Highland's Park Splash Pad project did to review the various vendors, equipment options or cost/usage estimates), probably the most important consideration is location, location, location.