Planning a Community Splash Pad: Goals and Development

Welcome back to the second installment of our educational series on how to create a community splash pad! The last post focused on items to be accomplished in the pre-planning stage. This week we will be focusing on the goals of the splash pad and its development.

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Goals

By creating a list of goals, planners and decision makers can refer to the objectives they set in the beginning to re-evaluate their choices to ensure they meet the goals they originally set out with. The goal of a Master Plan is to provide community residents exceptional open space, park land, facilities and programs to splash pad users.

The following goals and objectives are intended to provide an operational framework for future decisions related to provision of parks and recreation.

  • Create a Sense of Community and Belonging
  • Offer programming that is targeted to families and those residents without support services.
  • Celebrate the community through participation in festivals, community functions and events.
  • Support and encourage new developments to include areas for active and passive recreation.
  • Provide parks and recreation facilities that are of the highest quality, that preserve open space and history, are well maintained and that are accessible to all residents of the community.
  • To create a community of healthy residents by providing opportunities that promote and encourage active lifestyles.
  • Provide recreation programming and facility opportunities that meet the needs and interests of the entire community.
  • To use existing community resources efficiently and to demonstrate fiscal responsibility.
  • To build a city-wide system of parks connected by trails and greenways to provide both active and passive recreation opportunities.
  • To enhance the landscape character and aesthetics of parks to heighten the experience of the spray park user.
  • To increase the accessory services and facilities available to the park system use in the way of adequate restrooms, water fountains, concessions, shades areas, playgrounds, and other accessory services or facilities.

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Development

  • Clearly define the goals of the project (i.e. public health, revenue generation, community asset, etc.) and frame public discussions, budget numbers and designs in terms of stated goals.
  • Design the splash pad so that capacity aligns with projected use and revenue goals. Don’t cap users at a much lower number than the official capacity of their splash pad for safety.
  • Ensure access issues such as parking are considered early in the design process.
  • Plan for expansion and new features (i.e. install more ground sprays than will initially be used and buy water features that can be replaced or exchanged).
  • Explore opportunities to develop splash pads near other public amenities such as parks, pools, picnic areas and community centers.
  • Ensure adequate seating in shaded areas for adults supervising splash pad users.
  • Install mechanical and electrical equipment on concrete surfaces and insulated from dust and dirt.

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Important considerations during the planning process:

1.Physical Location

  • Within Community
  • Within Park or Recreation District
  • Proximity to similar neighboring facilities

2. Location and Availability of Parking

  • Is there sufficient parking?
  • Is there van or bus parking?
  • Is the parking shared with other activities?

3. Location and Availability of Restrooms and Concessions

  • Are restrooms included?
  • Are changing areas included?

4. Existing Utility Services (Water, Sanitary, Storm and Electrical)

  • Are existing utilities on site or nearby?

5. Nearby Amenities and Facilities (Playground, Athletic Fields, Mini Golf, Courts, etc.)

  • Are there nearby facilities that will complement the sprayground? Or negatively impact the sprayground?

6. Neighborhood Connectivity, Bicycle Routes

  • Connectivity to nearby regional bicycle or multi-use trail systems.

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To learn more about Aquatix splash pad and water play products, visit their website.

Creating a Community Splash Pad: Benefits and Pre-Planning

Planning a community splash pad can be an intimidating process. There are many aspects to consider in order to make the investment a success. In this series, we will be offering guidance on what to expect, steps to take, and elements to consider during the planning process!

There are many benefits to investing in a community splash pad. One of the long-term benefits is the revenue that residents and non-residents bring into the community along with the added appeal of living in that area. Attracting people means attracting money and patronage to the community. Patrons eat at restaurants, go to movies, buy gas, and go shopping whether they are living there or visiting. Adding to inclusive play opportunities for children is another important benefit. People who are looking for inclusive areas that are built with their children in mind can appreciate design intended for their kids’ physical and mental needs. Inclusive water play may be one of the only public areas that caters to all ages and abilities. Overall, splash pads can benefit a community both socially and economically.

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Pre-Planning Steps

Progressive cities should develop a coordinated system of parks and open space to meet the recreation aspects of urban life. This system, when properly planned, will maintain a consistent ratio between the park system and the developing population. The system will also develop a program consistent with the specific needs of the population. Finally, the system will develop a plan for future development to meet the demands of a growing population.

During the planning and development phase public officials should have an in depth knowledge of the communities needs based on resources, age demographics, future community growth, maintenance capabilities, expansion, location and funding. This should be accomplished based on past history and future expectations.

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History of the Park & Recreation Department: The first section of a plan gives the community a historical context in which to view the department and provides details as to how and why city leaders determined the need and created the department. This section is relevant to the plan because it allows the plan user and community to discover the progress which has already been made in parks and recreation in the city.

Introduction to a Master Plan: This section briefly describes that many progressive cities adopt coordinated parks system plans and explains the purposes of the plan. The section provides a preview of the contents of the overall master plan. Plus, it will define the overall park system by type and size facility. It will then project future needs both in terms of land and physical fixtures. Finally, it will provide a basis for a long-range capital improvements program, and provide for flexibility in the design and construction of individual parks.

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Analysis of the City: A section detailing information on demographics, projected population, and observed needs of the city’s existing and future population. This is an important section of the plan because it details who will be utilizing the splash pad in the future and what their recreational needs may be.

Profile of the Existing Parks and Recreation System: This section details the size, location, and facilities of each park, and all programs currently sponsored by local sports associations as well as the parks department. This section is important to the plan in that it provides information in which a sort of “state of the system” or status of the parks system may be ascertained.

These sections provide a complete overview of the scope of a recreation facility project such as a splash pad and can be referenced by all those involved for a more cohesive understanding of the details of the project.

Stay tuned for the next installment of in our series about creating a community splash pad!

Introducing: The Crab Trap™!

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Introducing: The Crab Trap™!  The Crab Trap™ invites children to take part in endless climbing options. Climbing experiences vary based on whether players are inside or outside the structure while a variety of components add an additional layer of interest and experiences. Between the outside climbing capabilities and inside options, play is endless in the Crab Trap™.

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The open ended play set-up excites a kid’s creativity and encourages the development of critical thinking and problem-solving skills. Maneuvering from challenge to challenge retains interest with even players older in age. The Crab Trap aids in the development in a variety of areas: sensory, motor skills, cognitive skills, and social/emotional skills.

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Available in Hot Galvanized Steel for coastal environments as well as having steel enforced cables, the Crab Trap™ is resistant to vandalism, sun, and other environmental damage for a longer life and more pleasing visual aesthetics for years to come!

 

Are Splash Pads the New Public Pool?

Geographical areas that experience their version of “warm weather”, whether that be a few scorching months of summer, or relatively mild temperatures nearly year round, are most likely familiar with the concept of a nearby cool-off zone. For many decades, that has meant a community pool where families and nearby residents could gather to seek relief from the sun and expend warm-weather energy.

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Public pools, however, have some inherent limitations. Members of the community most likely vary widely in age, from very young toddlers to teens and their parents, grandparents, and caregivers. As a result, the interests of these different ages are varied and require a more complex play experience. Younger children are able to be more adventurous at a splash pad than at a pool as they aren’t required to know how to swim or be a certain height in order to maintain a level of safety. Children of all abilities would have the opportunity to engage with splash pads, especially those from Aquatix® by Landscape Structures which are designed specifically to cater to different abilities. This is not always true for pools. Gentler water experiences like misting and bubbling water may entertain young guests while jets and waterfalls keep older children and teens busy and cool.

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Splash pads can also be beneficial when considering the cost and maintenance of the area compared to a pool. Adding a splash pad to a community area undoubtedly brings value to that area. They can be visually exciting and are more visible than the traditional swimming pool, attracting families to come and explore the community. They can be added to already existing facilities like parks to revitalize an area and create a destination location for repeat visitors.

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Generally, the initial investment of a splash pad is less than a swimming pool. Since they do not generate standing water, there is far less risk for drowning, negating the need for fencing, signage, and lifeguards which are both initial and ongoing costs to consider.

 

For cities where public pools are not a viable option, splash pads from Aquatix® by Landscape Structures can bring fun, value, and interest to an area that may otherwise have no water play. Children of all abilities and many ages are able to enjoy the benefits of water play while architects and designers are able to take more creative liberty in designing an area that is just as visually interesting as it is fun.

Guest Blog: Working to restore urban and wildland forests

Since 2008, we’ve partnered with American Forests to directly offset the total amount of CO2 generated for each playsystem and Skatewave® skatepark produced in our Delano, Minn., production facilities. Today, we’re happy to have Jami Westerhold, Senior Director of Forest Restoration, as our guest blogger, discussing the work that American Forests has done for the past 140 years.

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As the oldest national conservation nonprofit, this year American Forests is celebrating our 140th anniversary. Our mission is restore threatened forest ecosystems and inspire people to value and protect urban and wildland forests. As our forests are damaged by a myriad of threats—pests, disease, fire, development—American Forests works to restore these areas to health. Identifying high-impact projects American Forests selects a variety of projects in a range of locations and address different ecological challenges. Restored healthy wildland and urban forests provide numerous benefits ranging from providing wildlife habitat to cleaning air to reducing energy costs.

I manage one of American Forests’ keystone programs: Global ReLeaf. While the world watched the space shuttle Discovery place the Hubble Space Telescope in orbit 25 years ago, American Forests was launching a stellar program of its own.

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Though we had dipped our toe in the water of forest reforestation before 1990, this was the first year we committed to supporting multiple large-scale, on-the-ground projects. Since its inaugural year, American Forests’ Global ReLeaf program has blossomed into what is now our flagship program, planting more than 48 million trees in all 50 states and 45 counties.

Perusing our projects you will see that though the projects differ each year, there are common themes among American Forests’ comprehensive work to protect and restore the most damaged ecosystems. American Forests works to ensure native species are used and all elements are considered. Though our lives are dependent on forests—more than half of drinking water in the U.S. originates in forests!—their importance is much broader, reducing the rate of erosion, flooding, climate change and much more.

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Credit: USDA/Flickr

American Forests is thrilled to have partners like Landscape Structures supporting the success of these projects. Since 2008, Landscape Structures has offset carbon it generates through high-impact projects. Just last year, the company helped American Forests and the U.S. Forest Service re-establish longleaf pine, a priority in the southeastern United States, in an area affected by a high-intensity wildfire. Longleaf pines, which once covered more than 90 million acres of the North American landscape, now encompass less than three percent of their original range, or 3.4 million acres. These forests represented some of the world’s most unique biodiverse ecosystems and are a high priority because of the large number of threatened and endangered wildlife species that depend on these forest ecosystems.

Though we have restored hundreds of thousands of acres of forests, there is more work to be done. It is the partnerships with companies like Landscape Structures that lead to American Forests’ success in achieving our restoration goals.