Feature Article - April 2013
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Splash Down!

Splashpads Arriving in Style

By Kelli Anderson


Location Is Key

"We performed a site/location matrix where we prioritized preferred sties," Dockter said of the due-diligence needed to get the project done right. "The ultimate goal was to make sure the splashpad we built had a broad range of usage (no limit on age, ability, etc.), was easily visible and accessible to the public, and would bring the community together." To that end, Dockter said that the design process was fairly intense and advises that anyone considering building a splashpad really take the time necessary to analyze location.

Because splashpads are known to draw a crowd, their location can also help to transform an underperforming recreational area into a hub of social activity, as did the Highland's Park Splash Pad that has since helped to revitalize an existing community park.

"The splashpad in Cottage Grove has turned a fairly underutilized park into a gathering place for the community," Dockter explained. "On any given day, you'll find hundreds of people of all makes and walks of life enjoying not only the splashpad, but the playground, ball fields, courts, picnicking facilities and trails. Residents are making and or/rekindling connections that may not have existed without this recreational feature."

The location of the spray pad also played a key role in the Lee's Summit project. Reid's group found that one way to help determine the best location was doing a placement study of the wind and sun position to ensure minimal water loss and to keep patrons out of wind-driven spray. However, location also needs to take other important factors into account as well. Surrounding trees, for example, may create a problem in spring or fall when falling leaves, seeds or flowers may create a maintenance headache.

But also important, apart from the overall location of the park, is what will be located within and around it. "When planning a splash park I am finding the things that are most often forgotten about—but so important—" Robinson said, "come from the start in location is their parking, shade and seating."

Given that day cares and schools often flock to splashpads for their entertainment value, their exceptionally safe features (read: no standing water and little need to supervise) and relative affordability, it is essential to plan for ample parking, to have enough property to buffer neighbors and to provide important amenities.

Amenities Make the Difference

Because splashpads are known to draw a crowd, their location can also help to transform an under-performing recreational area into a hub of social activity.

"Splashpads alone will draw a crowd, but surrounding the splashpad with other amenities is the difference between good and great," Dockter said, underscoring the importance of considering all the necessary elements of a splash park.

To match the right amenities to the space, designers and planners need to ask such questions as where the park will be located, what demographic will be using it, whether there will be bicycle racks needed, where shade should be provided, how to provide beverages or drinking water, if baby-changing stations or bathrooms are needed, and if concessions are desired, in what form?

According to Brusseau, in his design experience, shade elements, restrooms and changing areas are exceedingly important elements. If there is the opportunity, he also suggests that vending machines added to the space can be a very nice feature, as are picnic tables where people can enjoy their lunches. As with any project, however, it is important to pay attention to good landscaping as well—especially if it is a very visible site—and to provide parking not just for cars but to also install bike racks for cyclists.

For many parks, splash play areas are free of charge but for those who plan to charge admission, fencing the area and staffing the entrance to welcome visitors and to oversee the safety of patrons and of the facility will be a must.