Splash Play Area Boosts Inclusion, Community
By Chris Thomas
In 2014, the city of Morehead, Ky., was forced to close a city pool that had served the community for more than 40 years. The large city pool was experiencing major structural issues that made it unsafe and costly to maintain. As a result, the city determined it would be best to close the facility and look for another water play solution for the community. After much investigation, then-newly-elected Mayor Jim Tom Trent determined that the best solution was to build a splash play water facility to serve the largest number of people in the community.
Morehead is located in Eastern Kentucky, about a one-hour drive from Lexington, nestled in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. With a population of nearly 7,000, Morehead is located within the Daniel Boone National Forest along the Sheltowee Trace Trail and is also home to Morehead State and Cave Run Lake, eastern Kentucky's largest lake.
When it was determined that the city pool needed to be closed, the mayor's office took the opportunity to re-evaluate the needs of the entire community. Knowing that the community had a lake and a large, indoor university natatorium at its disposal, the concept of installing a splash-play water facility was appealing because of its ability to serve a larger group of abilities and ages.
Once it was determined that a splash-play park was an optimal solution, the city worked with Morehead Tourism and Rowan Country Fiscal Court to raise the money needed to purchase the land for the facility, a piece of land that wasn't being used. The city then worked with DWA Recreation and Water Odyssey to design an inclusive water play area that reflected the area's natural beauty.
"We are so blessed to live in a community that truly works together for the benefit of all," said former mayor Trent, who championed the new splash water play park as well as several other new playgrounds that were built during his term.
The land purchased for placement of the splash pad was an odd shape that totaled more than 5,900 square feet of space. Staying on a tight budget, the city worked closely with DWA Recreation and Water Odyssey to come up with a customized design that reflected the uniqueness of the city, but stayed within budget. After a year of planning and designing, Water Odyssey came up with a wilderness-themed splash pad to match the area's natural beauty. It features a one-of a-kind tree house with two water slides, an 18-foot eagle spray feature and forty additional water features for children, teens and adults of all ages and abilities to enjoy.
This particular splash park design included many custom features, but used a standard design layout provided by Water Odyssey. The city of Morehead liked the design but wanted to incorporate additional elements to reflect the uniqueness of the city. The most prominent of those features was the creation of an eagle, which is the mascot of the nearby Morehead State College, using the blue and yellow colors of the school.
They also wanted the design to blend into the natural feel of the area that is filled with the natural beauty of trees and nature parks that are a part of the adjacent Daniel Boone National Forest. Water Odyssey listened to the city's wants and took into consideration their needs for this community recreation feature. They created and manufactured an 18-foot tree house with a finished pad surface size of 330 feet across. There are two main slides positioned on opposite sides of the treehouse, offering multiple play spaces for all ages and abilities. Molded with glass fiber reinforced concrete, the entire tree is constructed with a steel interior structure. An eagle sits atop the Spray N' Prey themed spray feature. In continuing with the nature theme of the park, a Wild Wolf Aqua Slide was placed on the splash pad for more opportunities to engage in aqua play.
For this particular splash park design, the city chose a recirculation system rather than a flow-through water system. The system recirculates approximately 1,000 gallons of water per minute and is treated chemically in the holding tank before flowing back to the splash features. The recirculation tank system was chosen not only for water conservation but also for environmental reasons. The land upon which the splash pad is located is placed on area of infill land and near a neighboring creek. As a result, extra measures were taken to ensure the ground was solid enough to support the weight of the splash pad and avoid any contamination of the creek or underground water.
Brad Boaz of CMW Architects contributed to the project engineering and determined that a stone and a geo textile grid should be installed to stabilize the ground before the concrete could be poured. In this case, there was 8 inches of geo-grid and stone installed (the norm is 4 inches of this materials for a splash pad of this size). The extra stabilization was needed because this area was a section of previous infilling.
A 5,000-gallon collector tank is located below ground as a part of the recirculation system. The collector tank is approximately 9 feet wide by 13 feet high and 10 feet deep and weighs around 4,000 pounds when it's empty. This tank is entirely underground except for the lids and thus needed the extra support and ground stabilization.
In this particular park, an adjacent restroom building was simultaneously being built to serve the splash pad and DWA Recreation worked with the bathroom-building contractor, PSS Contractors LLC, to design a mechanical room placed within one end of the restroom building. As a result, the plumbing and piping was slightly more complicated because it all had to meet the needs both of the splash pad and the restrooms.
The slides that emerge from the custom designed tree house were more complicated to install because they weren't a part of a standard water feature design. Because DWA Recreation is a playground specialist, they worked closely with Water Odyssey to assist in the slide construction and installation. These slides are quite long and are made to sit on a flat surface. However, the splash pad can't have a completely flat surface but rather needs to slope because the water needs to run off into the drains of the recirculation system. Adjustments were made to the slides so not only would they work well but would also meet the required CPSC safety codes.
Finalizing the Project
The splash pad features a teen area as well as a toddler area integrated into the splash pad. The entire design is meant to be entirely inclusive with age-appropriate play zones as well as ADA and AS™ standards. Each zone flows into the next, increasing in water feature size from smaller features to larger interactive water play. The nature-based theme of the water features is fun, reflecting the uniqueness of the Morehead community.
Once the design was complete and the custom pieces were in production, it was time to finalize and name the new park. The team agreed that the name for the park should incorporate the Native American name given to Daniel Boone, and because of the many cascading water features included in the design, the park was named Sheltowee Falls.
Although originally this splash pad was to be open for use in the summer of 2018, the park opened only briefly in the fall of 2018 and was used by the community on warm days until it was winterized in late October. However, Sheltowee Falls had a grand re-opening in August 2019 and the all-inclusive water play splash pad is being enjoyed by hundreds of residents daily this summer.
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