Recreation Management Rec Report - The Newsletter for Recreation, Sports & Fitness Facility Managers

Feature Story

September 2021

$500,000 in Grants Awarded for Water-Inspired Play Spaces

In partnership with the National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA), the American Water Charitable Foundation announced the recipients of its 2021 Building Better Communities grant program. The City of Imperial Beach, Calif., and the City of Lexington, Ky., were awarded the grants, which total $500,000, to create equitable community-focused, water-inspired play areas that feature modern, state-of-the-art splash pads to teach children and families the importance of water stewardship and conservation. This is the eighth year of the grant program, which is funded by the AWCF and administered by NRPA.

"We are pleased to partner with the cities of Imperial Beach and Lexington to provide equitable and accessible water-based play spaces so children and families can learn, interact and appreciate water, a critical natural resource, in a fun and engaging way," said Carrie Williams, president of the American Water Charitable Foundation. "Through our work, we have found that splash pads are a wonderful way to ensure water access for all, while supporting our conservation focus and engaging community members in environmental education."

The City of Imperial Beach, a community that sits along the border between the United States and Mexico, has suffered from a long history of severe pollution impacts from the Tijuana River, affecting beach water quality and limiting access to water-based recreation. The city will use the $250,000 grant to construct an all-inclusive splash pad at Veteran's Park, providing the community with a free, family-friendly water play experience. Designed to accommodate people with mobility issues and other disabilities, the splash pad demonstrates the city's commitment to water stewardship through a variety of sustainability elements, including a recirculation system to conserve water. In addition, the city will host a variety of educational workshops at the park that focus on water quality and environmental conservation.

The City of Lexington will use its $250,000 grant to create an all-inclusive splash pad and water play experience. Located in historic Charles Young Park, an area located within a prominent African-American community, the splash pad will predominantly serve people from the east end of the city who lack access to water- and nature-based play. To ensure everyone has access to these types of amenities, the splash pad, designed to accommodate people with mobility issues and other disabilities, will be the first free water play experience for this part of the city. Using a distinct nature-inspired design, the project, which is part of the city's larger green linear trail, Town Branch Commons, will connect the community to nature and the outdoors. In addition, the splash pad will encourage water stewardship through educational signage and conservation programs highlighting the splash pad features.

"Ensuring children and families can experience water and have access to water-based education and nature play spaces is key to building the next generation of environmental stewards," said Kellie May, NRPA vice president, programs and partnerships.

Now in its eighth year, the Building Better Communities initiative helps communities create or enhance public park spaces or programs that encourage the community to engage in water and nature-inspired play, connect to the natural world, and focus on environmental education and water-based recreation. The grants, totaling $3.3 million, help American Water communities in 12 states—California, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, Missouri, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia—engage children and families in areas surrounding the chosen parks.

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