Photo courtesy of Bergen County Parks and Recreation Department
Darlington Park Creates Largest Wibit on the East Coast
With existing spring-fed lakes on 178 acres of land, Darlington Park in Mahwah, N.J., sought out ways to revitalize the recreation experience for the next generation as well as draw long-lost visitors back in. Parks and Recreation officials in Bergen County contemplated many amenities to add to their portfolio of programming options but, like many, they desired uniqueness.
At the Parks and Recreation Summit in early 2019, Parks Director James Koth attended a vendor discovery session with Commercial Recreation Specialists (CRS). Bergen County was striving to “redefine Darlington Park as a destination,” Koth expressed to CRS.
The category of Aqua Parks in the public recreation industry was uncharted for Koth, but luckily for him, Aqua Parks are at the heart of CRS’ proven solutions, in addition to expert master planning. After chatting with Koth, CRS President Ron Romens and CRS Principal Rich Wills were able to design a one-of-a-kind Wibit Aqua Park configuration that would present an engaging, challenging and unique programming solution for Darlington Park.
With minimal excavation required for its existing environment, Darlington Park worked with CRS to refurbish its upper lake as the hub for the Wibit Aqua Park within only a year—just in time for the following season. Utilizing the existing landscape not only offered a sustainable solution but also reduced the long-term operational expenses compared to traditional solutions requiring running water.
The modular nature of Aqua Parks also allowed Darlington Park to take a phased approach, meaning it would start with a smaller system and expand as the newly named “Splash Zone” grew in popularity. Eye-catching inflatables like the Action Tower XXL and other connecting pieces made up the configuration when the Splash Zone originally debuted in 2019. Since then, Darlington Park has made biannual additions to the Splash Zone, including a designated kid’s course in 2021. The park is projected to add even more attractions this year, including the Rock and TripleJump, a brand new Wibit inflatable. They have also added city-contracted food trucks, providing concessions.
While revenue generation was not a top priority for Darlington Park officials, it came as a pleasant side effect with the park’s increase in capacity. Additions like the kid’s course gave families a safe way to let their littles ones play in the water and served as one stop out of the many attractions within the park. This helped lengthen the visitor stay and increase volume and, in turn, overall park revenue.
Today, Darlington Park averages 1,500 visitors per day according to Assistant Parks Director Ron Subramaniam. The visitor count includes both in-county and out-of-county residents, who purchase an entrance fee with optional add-ons. Splash Zone attendees make up more than 20% of overall visitors through five Splash Zone sessions a day with 50 to 70 people per session, and the number is expected to continually grow.
As faced by many in the public recreation field, attaining a robust lifeguard staff has been the biggest challenge. With safety as the utmost priority, Darlington Park overcomes this challenge with outsourced lifeguard services and multiple tiers of on-site park personnel.
CRS is pleased to continue to service Darlington Park yearly by installing, taking down, and performing maintenance and repair as needed on the park’s Splash Zone.
“Just do it and take the plunge” is Subramaniam’s advice for other park districts looking for new amenities. With your park’s goals and mission in mind, an Aqua Park might just be the next remarkable thing that brings your community together.
All photos provided by Commercial Recreation Specialists.