Problem Solver - August 2008
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Adding a Spray Park

Whether it's a swimming pool, a waterpark a lakefront, a beach or a simple fire hydrant left open on the corner, you've seen the attraction water has for kids and adults of all ages. Savvy recreation directors take advantage of this attraction by offering plenty of ways for patrons to cool off. More and more of these directors are adding splashpads, also known as spray parks, splash playgrounds and spraygrounds.

Q: We don't have a big budget for a new aquatic facility, but we'd like to offer kids a way to enjoy some water and cool off. Is there a less expensive alternative?

A: It's for reasons just like this that spray parks are one of the most commonly planned additions at park districts and recreation facilities. Communities looking for ways to provide water recreation might not be able to build waterparks and swimming pools, but they can relatively easily provide a spray park. These amenities are a colorful way to enhance parks and attract more visitors. And with the option to build in phases or to include anchors that allow you to change and add features, you can keep the fun coming.

Q: Should we be concerned about water quality? What do we need to know before we get started?

A: When you have kids splashing in water, sanitization is going to be an important factor. By planning things the right way up front, you'll be sure to have the infrastructure necessary to keep the water clean and protect your patrons' health.

There are multiple options for water supply for a spray park. You can use potable water to supply the play area, which means the water is not recirculated. The drawback of this approach is that you are sending water down the drain, and if conservation is a concern in your area, you may need to enact other steps. Fortunately, manufacturers have the foresight to help you deal with these concerns with integrated flow rate control on the play products, as well as automation and sequencing that will minimize water consumption.

Another option uses recirculated water. This method recovers the water used, treats it and sends it back through the play area. Water quality management will need to be taken under consideration in this case.

Q: How can we meet the needs of a diverse group of kids from the community?

A: Just like a dry playground, splashpads ideally offer different areas for age-appropriate play. To ensure you're offering something for all of the kids in your community, you should consider creating three areas within your spray park, each designed for different groups. One area should offer opportunities for discovering the water through non-intimidating mists and gentle streams—ideal for toddlers. Another area can encourage social interaction and family play. Features in this area might include water tunnels and dumping buckets that promote multigenerational play. Finally, you should provide a fun, high-energy area that encourages teamwork and competitive play with water cannons and other fun, interactive games.

Q: We'd like a solution that will delight our patrons immediately, but we also want to plan for the longer-term. Will we be able to add to our spray park?

A: Adding onto your spray park when budget allows is a great idea. A little careful up-front consideration and investment will save money in the long run when you want to add more fun.

Look for a manufacturer that offers a swappable anchoring system, which allows you to easily replace or interchange play products. This way, if you have multiple spray parks around the community, you can move elements from one location to another to keep things fresh for local users. If you only have one spray park, you can still benefit from the anchor system by moving existing elements around, or by purchasing new elements when your budget allows and switching them out to keep things interesting.

What's more, if you only have the budget to develop one part of the spray park at a time, you can cap off anchoring points with spray caps that still offer some play value while allowing for future expansion. Once you're ready to grow, simply replace the spray cap with a play product.

An additional benefit of the anchoring system is the ability to easily remove and replace play products for maintenance.

Vortex Aquatic Structures International Inc.: