A Splashing Good Time
By Peter Arnold
In late September 2018, Stillwater completed construction of an amazing splash park. Located in the desirable river valley of Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, and close to major transit corridors, Stillwater is a fully masterplanned community created by Mattamy Homes that embraces its surrounding nature and brings the beauty of its landscape to life by mixing parks, trails and green areas with a world-class amenity center. Designed to promote a healthy, active lifestyle, the homeowners' amenity center gives residents exclusive access to a playground, skating rink and a very unique splash pad. Not only is the splash pad designed for all-inclusive play, it also uses an eco-friendly recirculation system to conserve water. In addition, the designers of this splash pad created a large, custom set of spray rings that creates an eye-catching, artistic visual at the entrance of the facility.
Park N Play was chosen by Mattamy Home Developers to design and build a splash pad as well as the surrounding playground for the Stillwater development. Park N Play Design provides a turnkey solution from beginning to end. For the splash pad, Park and Play Design partnered Mattamy Homes and Rainman Irrigation using Water Odyssey aquatic play equipment by Fountain People.
Shelly Robinson, territory manager at Park N Play, led the project from beginning to end. "It was very exciting to be a part of this beautiful new development and to create not only an all-inclusive splash pad design but also to provide a splash pad that is both eco-friendly and visually stunning," Robinson said.
The splash pad provides 3,586 square feet of wet play area and recirculates 226.5 GPM of water. The overall design of the splash pad focuses on being accessible and usable by all ages and all abilities using spray features that truly foster inclusive play. The splash pad is designed for users to be able to walk or run, or use a stroller, wheelchair or walker anywhere within the splash pad. "Inclusive play" allows users with any level of sensory, auditory, behavioral or physical challenge to be able to play side-by-side along with others or by themselves.
It is important to understand that there are various "zones" within the splash pad to be enjoyed by any potential user of any age providing safe, independent and interactive play. There are areas that allow users to be soaked, areas where users can just be splashed and areas with cannon shooters for users with more energy such as teenagers. There are even areas positioned along the edges of the splash pad designed specifically for users who would like to play alone. In order to integrate the beautiful surrounding nature, the splash pad layout also includes a custom "rock" spray feature that is fun for users to sit on and crawl around and over. There are also several smaller artificial "stones" that emit light mist and water sprays that feel more nature-like.
In addition to the various interactive spray features on the splash pad, Park N Play Design worked very closely with the developer to create a set of visually appealing spray rings that would stand out and be seen immediately upon approaching the amenity center complex. These rings not only allow users to run beneath them and be sprayed with water, but are also so large, that they can be seen year-round, whether the ground is covered with several feet of snow or the splash pad is open with running water. The three custom rings are 14 feet, 16 feet and 18 feet tall and look like a piece of public art.
"When potential homebuyers approached the amenity center this past September, they were visually greeted by the large, strikingly beautiful spray rings," Robinson explained. "Not only are these rings beautiful, they are also central to the all inclusive spray park design."
Water is a finite resource, and builders throughout North America are now focused on conserving this precious resource, especially when it comes two pools, fountains and splash pads. Installing a recirculation system on a splash pad is an eco-friendly way to preserve water. However, recirculation systems are more expensive to build and there are additional specifications that need to be met in order to be approved by local health agencies.
In the case of the Stillwater splash pad, the system needed to be approved both by the municipality and by the health board. Most municipalities in Canada want to conserve water. And more and more regions are requiring that every splash pad have a recirculation system. However, there is a bit of a sticker shock when developers in Canada see that $150,000 alone goes toward the mechanics and the installation of the recirculation system. Canada is catching up with the United States in this regard.
Municipalities in the past have opted for a flow-through system (also called a single-pass or drain-to-waste system), partly because the upfront costs are lower than a recirculating system. However, flow-through systems use so much more water that cities are now converting to recirculating systems as a conservation measure. As an added bonus, the recirculating systems have higher flow rates, so users get wetter.
Most often recirculation splash parks need to be staffed during operating hours, again increasing costs. A recirculating system operates more like a pool—with chemicals, filters and pumps that treat and reuse the splash pad's water. Basically, water is sent to the pad from a tank roughly four to five times the system's flow rate. So if the splash pad's features are operating at the extremely high flow rate of 2,500 gallons per minute, for example, a 10,000-gallon tank is required to allow the system to properly maintain water quality.
The recirculation system includes a main drain with dual port to collect all splash pad water to return to tank and/or waste, an electrical solenoid valve for diverting rain water to waste with drain line that takes waste water to the sewer system, an underground water reservoir tank prefabricated and pre-plumbed with water level control, floating skimmer and submersible pump out system. In addition, the system requires a lockable manway with ladder access to provide easy access for maintenance of water reservoir tank. These items are required in addition to all of the filtration, pumps filters and chemical feed & sanitation systems for treatment of the water.
In Canada, of course, the recirculation system is below grade such that no frost or freezing issues will ever occur as all lines are below the frost line. However the systems still need to be completely winterized by the beginning of October.
It's important for aquatic designers and builders to realize that local codes and requirements are constantly evolving. While many designers and builders are aware that regulations changed in 2014, not everyone realizes that the standards were updated again in 2018 in accordance with Model Aquatic Health Code (MAHC) recommendations. Aquatic professionals should take the time to review the nuances from province to province in order to fully comply with local codes when designing and building recirculation systems on splash pads.
In addition to all of the various interactive spray features on the splash pad, Park N Play Design worked very closely with the developer to create a visually appealing set of water rings.
"The developer of Stillwater, Mattamy Homes, asked us to include something with a real visual impact on the splash pad," Robinson explained.
This is especially important as the splash pad is located immediately in front of the amenities center and is the first thing that users see upon entering the area. "We worked closely with Water Odyssey to create three, large custom water coil spray rings that can be seen from all angles," Robinson said.
The 14 foot water coil is 4 inches in diameter and runs 13 GPM of water at 10 psi. The second water coil ring, at 16 feet in height is 6 inches in diameter and runs 15 GPM at 10 psi, and the largest, 18-foot water coil is 8 inches in diameter and runs 21 GPM of water at 10 psi.
"We positioned the three coils together in a way that creates a real "wow factor" upon approaching the splash pad," Robinson said.
It's important to realize that splash pads offer the opportunity to be more than a water play area. In Canada splash parks are only open with users for about three or four months a year. But the splash park can be as much a visual attraction as an interactive play area in the colder months. By using artistic visual appeal, including lighting, a splash park can give a facility year-round appeal, like public works of art.
"We have some clients that change the lighting in their splash pad several times a year including the use of red and green color lighting during the holidays," Robinson said. "One of the reasons our firm likes working with Water Odyssey and Fountain People is it they have the ability to think outside the box and create custom water features and lighting that make a splash park appealing year-round."
Splash parks are, by nature, a very inclusive amenity during the warmer summer months. They can be designed not only for inclusivity but also to make a visual statement that acts as a permanent marketing tool while being aesthetically pleasing. And even though there is a cost associated with recirculation systems, the eco-friendly nature of these recirculation systems support water conservation efforts, making them well-received by our communities.
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