Supplement Feature - September 2020
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Water Fun For Everyone

Aquatic Play Gets 'Smart'

By Rick Dandes

Get 'Smart'

Adding smart technologies to splash pad designs, through advancements in products and mechanical equipment, "is one of the biggest trends in the past couple of years," Lapierre said. These technologies are not only meant to keep up with the "smart" parks of today by being able to monitor all different types of usage remotely, they also lend themselves to more engaging play value and a higher level of entertainment.

For example, Lapierre said, "controllers now have the ability to remotely monitor resources and control the splash pad flow, hours, and days of operation, with built-in fail-safes that will ramp the splash pad down or turn it off in the case of extreme weather conditions. Then too, adding LED lighting and creating more fountain-like play experiences—these types of new technologies help facilitate longer playtimes and change daytime splash pads into beautiful evening venues for the whole family to enjoy," she said.

Safety First

Splash pads are zero-depth, meaning that the water drains away and there is no need for lifeguards or a risk of drowning, Hutchinson said, about safety. "The safest splash pads feature play elements that are designed adhering to the leading safety standards in the industry, along with a layout that promotes engaging play zoned to encourage similar styles of play in each area.

"This means that water players can play alongside one another without the risk of feeling intimidated or discouraged," she said. "A well-designed play space should enable every water player to explore and challenge themselves both mentally and physically. The goal of play is that children learn life skills through their experiences in recreation. When we discourage them testing their abilities and limitations, we also discourage their growth and development. Well-designed zero-depth splash pads are perfect environments for engaging free play and exploration."

Splash pads provide the community an alternate outdoor aquatic activity other than going to a pool, which is especially important for children who don't know how to swim, said Lapierre. They have no standing water, which means no risk of drowning. No lessons are needed.

Meanwhile, she continued, "there are no climbing structures, so no fall heights to be concerned with, unlike a playground. All designs include features that meet or exceed AS™ standards."

There are also no trip hazards or pinch points, and although they can also be designed to offer a fountain-like appeal, the nozzle orifice sizes are designed so that there are no possibilities for finger entrapment—unlike a traditional fountain.

Added signage should be included to advise users of typical rules of playing in the park area and on the splash pad, Lapierre added. For example, signs should advise that younger children be accompanied by a parent, that no eating, drinking or glass is allowed, and that children younger than 2 must wear swim diapers. In addition, she said, some communities are adding new regulations to their signage to deal with COVID-19, such as maintenance schedules, physical distancing regulations and capacity rules.

To further boost safety, Goss suggests that surfacing designed specifically for aquatic play be considered in lieu of concrete surfaces. Splash pads are still fairly new, she said, so they haven't been regulated in the way that playgrounds have been. "We've seen a ton of slip and fall injuries as a result of that, at some points even causing splash pads to shut down, and it's really unfortunate."