More cities adding splash pads

Thursday , March 06, 2014 - 1:56 PM

Bryon Saxton, Standard-Examiner Staff

Is it just a splash-pad fad, or are the advantages of municipalities offering their residents glorified sprinklers to run through something that is here to stay?

A handful of cities in the Top of Utah have recently added splash pads to their lists of recreation amenities, with Layton and Kaysville each adding one this year.

Clearfield has an outdoor and indoor splash pad as part of the Clearfield Aquatic Center, which opened in 2006.

Advantages to the splash pads, albeit expensive to develop, are that the vast majority of the pads are free to the public, have no standing water (nearly eliminating any potential of drowning), and allow parents to accompany their children to a water attraction without forcing them to put on a swim suit.

Clearfield City Councilman Kent Bush, liaison to the city’s Parks & Recreation Commission, said the novelty of splash pads is what attracts kids and parents alike. “Everybody likes water, especially kids. (Splash pads) offer all different ways of getting wet,” he said.

Clearfield currently has a splash pad outside its indoor swimming complex as well as inside the indoor pool. Both pads are included in the price of pool admission.

“Clearfield has looked into adding a (splash pad) in their parks,” Bush said. But the health department does not allow water to be recycled and used without a filtration system, he said. “There is where the expense is.”

Another factor in the popularity of the pads is they nearly eliminate any possibility of drowning, because there is very little standing water on the pad, Bush said.

“The biggest danger with them is to slip and fall,” he said, or possibly getting hit by one of the moving water features.

“They’re an attraction. They bring people to the city,” Bush said, although he is uncertain whether those visitors who go to a city to use its splash pad for a few hours a day boost the city’s economy.

When Layton city opened in July its $380,000 splash pad in Ellison Park, it was pretty well “overrun with folks,” Layton Parks Superintendent Brock Hill said.

For a time, the Layton splash pad was averaging 250 people every two hours, Hill said. As the newness wore off, and the summer wore on, Hill said, that figure dropped to about 150 people every two hours.

The reason the water attractions are popular, Hill said, is that they are a free service cities provide.

The splash pad also offers “a controlled environment” for the parents, Hill said. “It’s like running through sprinklers. It is relatively safe. It’s just a good wholesome activity.”

For that reason, Hill said, he suspects more cities will add the pads to their park system as public pressure in those different communities mounts.

If the public is screaming for it, some funding support should come from the residents through donations, Hill said.

The only downside to splash pads is the water evaporation that occurs.

But according to officials, the evaporation is minimal.

Layton uses a state-of-the-art percolated system that recirculates the water, Hill said.

“We felt it was the more responsible use of water and resources,” he said.

By recirculating water, the city can control the purity and sanitation of the pad, Hill said. “Some of the water does evaporate, and on occasion we have to add water to the balancing tank.”

Riverdale Public Works Director Shawn Douglas said that city installed a splash pad in Riverdale Park three years ago for about $280,000, and the pad has proved to be very popular.

“Kids love to be wet during the summer, and it is free,” Douglas said, explaining the popularity of the pad, which operates from Memorial Day to Labor Day.

Although there is no standing water on the pad featuring toys that spray water, the city does encourage parents accompany their children to the pad.

“It is just a nice place to spend the afternoon,” Douglas said.

“I don’t think Riverdale will be adding any more,” he said of the pads.

But Douglas said he anticipates seeing pads “popping up” throughout the surrounding cities.

Contact reporter Bryon Saxton at 801-625-4244 or Follow him on Twitter at @BryonSaxton.

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