Feature Article - April 2013
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Splash Down!

Splashpads Arriving in Style

By Kelli Anderson

Design for Success

Another important consideration are the age groups who will be using the area and their proximity to any existing aquatic recreational features such a as pool or waterpark. At the Lakewood Cove Center, it was important that the design layout take different age groups into account.

"Our prime objective was to create a safe aquatic experience for our toddlers and small children," Reid explained. "We additionally wanted a fun 'cool off' area for older children and their parents." By placing the toddler and small child features near the back of the spray pad near the sunshade, they were able to allow older children to better enjoy the larger features without any pressure from younger children and their parents. Additionally, by placing the spray pad at a right angle to the main pool, it enhanced security for the younger children.

Of course, splash parks do not have to be limited to designs just for little ones but can be created to appeal to all age groups. When accommodating a wider variety of users, it is important to create delineated zones for optimum safety.

But whether your park is for toddlers or centenarians, being able to visualize your park before it is built can remove a lot of the what-ifs that may linger in the community's mind. Reid said the use of 3-D models was particularly helpful in formulating the layout possibilities for their project. The 3-D models not only helped them to see how the multitude of colors and shapes would blend in with the surroundings, but it assured them that the selections they made would be a hit with their community who were able to envision it before it was installed.

Other considerations should also include designing elements both for those who want to get wet as well as those who don't. "We have soft mists for those less willing to get soaked and then full dumps for those excited about the anticipation of surprise and thrills," Robinson said about the design at Edson Splash Park. "You can play independently or you can interact on some events. Everyone plays."

Plenty of seating for onlookers that is shaded and protected from the spray is also a welcome touch for caregivers.

Aside from creature comforts, these spaces also benefit from periodic changes to keep features fresh and to keep those features in good working order. To that end, designers recommend planning for eventual expansion of these parks, given that their popularity often leads to the demand for more. However, for parks that can't expand, another way to keep interest alive and well is to purchase several extra spray features that can be switched out from year to year.

Another trend that manufacturers and designers are noting these days is a call for more themed designs (particularly in rural areas), and a trend toward more natural looking elements to mimic nature. This latter trend comes as no surprise, given the growing awareness from many studies that show that children need more trees, rocks and animals in their lives for overall well-being. And while incorporating a spray feature into an actual tree may not be possible, designers and communities are happy to create the next best thing.

"In both dry and wet playgrounds we are seeing the nature theme evolve," Brusseau said. "We recently did a splashpad near Bartlett, Ill., near a heron rookery (land basically designated for Great Blue Herons). In the center of the splashpad is a Blue Heron, a natural element that mimics and helps children learn about nature."