Feature Article - March 2011
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Maintenance Series: Spraygrounds

Don't Walk Away
Spraygrounds Require Ongoing Maintenance

By Dawn Klingensmith

"It's starting to turn around, but there was a period when spraygrounds were seen as the answer to budget problems," Morgan said.

While they are easier on the budget than pools, "The issue is that municipalities don't have the manpower budgeted to do the simplest things," he added, and that leads to poor equipment performance which, in turn, causes unnecessary health hazards.

Trouble arises, in part, because people use splashpads in ways that municipalities don't anticipate. Poor hygiene practices prior to entry are common, for example. And though some state codes require the presence of foot showers, "Kids run through in street clothes after rolling around on the baseball field," Morgan said, "so the sprayground itself becomes a quasi-shower."

Add bike wash to the list. "I've seen kids riding bikes through them because there's no one there to control the misuse," he added.

Motorcycles and even cars have been caught cruising through spraygrounds, but even quotidian maintenance challenges sometimes catch facility owners off-guard. Plenty of facility coordinators end up spending hours cleaning debris out of spray features and responding to other minor but potentially troublesome issues. Dirt and organic load, such as grass clippings, can clog systems if permitted to build up. Indeed, if there is turf nearby, mowing can set off a day or two of near-constant attention to strainer baskets and components, which might otherwise get jammed or stuck open, and possibly stop functioning altogether.

Leaves also can be a problem. "It might seem desirable to nestle the sprayground in some trees for shade, but you'll end up spending a lot of time blowing off the pad," Brannon said.

Daily and routine maintenance involves checking all mechanical equipment to make sure it's operating correctly, and removing debris that catches in filters and strainers. Water quality and levels must also be checked and chemicals measured by a trained individual. There are Web-based monitoring systems that measure chemical levels, pressure on filters, flow rate and other metrics, and then send an e-mail or text message alert when something needs attention. But these remote readings should not replace on-site visits.