Facility Profile - March 2008
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Spraypark Makeover

Woodlands Water Play Park in St. Albert, Canada

By Elisa Kronish

hen you live in a place where winter seems to last forever and below-zero temperatures are commonplace, you cherish the no-jacket-required days of late spring and summer, however few there may be. In St. Albert, Alberta, Canada, they take full advantage of their outdoor time, making the town's free Woodlands Water Play Park one of the most popular summer spots, especially because it attracts folks from more than an hour away. In fact, opened in 1995 as Western Canada's first spraypark, by 2005 Woodlands was a little too crowded for its size. The facility was experiencing mechanical and engineering troubles that could no longer be patched with easy fixes.

"We looked at three options of renovating or rehabbing," said Dan Willems, who began working on the Woodlands project as municipal engineer with the City of St. Albert and then changed roles, becoming project engineer with Stantec, the design and consulting firm that studied the spraypark. They considered removing the park's slow and outdated water treatment system and converting to a run-to-waste system, but that was tossed because the city system wouldn't be able to handle such a large amount of water in the sewer. Plus, with so much water running through, it wasn't environmentally sound either.

They also thought about replacing the treatment system with a larger one and installing high-efficiency nozzles on the existing spray features. Unfortunately, a lot of the issues plaguing the park had to do with old pipes, which were installed a foot or two beneath the concrete pad. "We get a lot of freezing here," Willems said. And as pipes froze and broke, the city simply had to turn off some of the sprays. "We were slowly losing features," he added. There were two primary pipes that fed most of the structures and, if those froze, Willems said, "basically the park would be out of business."

It was option number three that was deemed the smartest, long-term solution: Replace the treatment system and the entire spraypark down to those tired pipes. The plan meant that the park would be closed for the 2006 season and re-opened late for 2007. Still, they had to move fast. "We made a decision early on to get a supplier and manufacturer for spray features so we could decide those right away," Willems explained. The city hired Habitat Systems as its supplier and Vortex as manufacturer. Stantec was pegged as engineering consultant. "Being that this project was bigger and it required a building for the treatment system, we decided we needed an engineer," Willems noted.

Plus, with safety concerns in mind, the city also worked with the Alberta region's health regulator, Capital Health, to make sure their system met certain standards. Because the area has very few sprayparks—and none as large as Woodlands—there are no specific health requirements yet for such facilities. "We were kind of going from scratch," Willems said.

"The main issue is that a splash park is different than a pool," he explained. Whereas a pool has a lot of water that can be chlorinated as needed, a splash park has a smaller volume of water that's constantly recycled.