Crystal Springs’ design fits community needs
Crystal Springs Family Aquatic Center, located in East Brunswick, N.J., opened with a “bang” on the 4th of July, 1994, after more than six years of occasional fire works displays over need, cost and operation in this suburban community of 45,000 residents.
The center was built on Community Beach, a 2-acre man-made lake in 102-acre Community Park. Due to dwindling membership, the old facility could no longer sustain itself or its growing need for improvement. Decreasing revenues resulted in taxpayers bearing the brunt of all capital improvements, and regulations for the handling of chemicals, liability issues, wetlands protection and handicapped accessibility concerns clouded its future.
For 20 years, several committees had discussed the need for a new public swimming facility or improvements to the beach. After determining a self-sustaining family aquatic center at the site would be the best approach, two financial feasibility studies were conducted by township staff and Haralson Associates of Dallas. Both indicated that 1,500 member families would be needed to support a $2-million facility.
The community ignited on the issue. Fueled by negative press coverage, there was pressure from the opposition to “go to referendum,” since opponents thought it likely to be voted down. Construction and maintenance costs, non-resident use and the draining of local tax dollars were very real fears of the public, leading to an ambitious campaign of community education and input conducted by the Blue Water Aquatic Facility Oversight Committee.
Community meetings, educational materials and even a 30-minute “infomercial” — which was shown on public television and made available for free rental at the library — were produced. Public forums were held to address resident’s questions and concerns, and a 24-hour hotline was established where every caller received a personal return call. Each call was recorded in a response document and reviewed by the committee. The committee formally presented its findings of community support in January 1993.
A large binder of citizen comments and concerns, later known as the Red Book, was used by the design firm to customize the facility to the specific needs of East Brunswick.
Construction on the project, designed by Heery International, Atlanta, and Maser Sosinski Associates, Matawan, N.J., began in October 1993.
Because of budget concerns, Aquatic Builders, Cohoes, N.Y., served as general contractor and also performed many design modifications.
The facility ultimately cost $2.7 million to build and hosts six water attractions, picnic groves, children’s playground, support buildings, gift shop, volleyball,, basketball and a food concession. Its features include:
* Bubble Beach. A children’s pool for ages six months through five years features shallow water with depths up to 18 inches, as well as fountains, sprays, climbable animals, a waterfall, two blue fiberglass slides and a water umbrella.
* Blue Lagoon. The family pool, three feet deep at its deepest point, features a barrier-free entry known as “zero depth” — no ladders or steps.
* Cozy Creek. The river, a channel three feet deep by 12 feet wide, is accessible from the family pool. Tubes are provided for floating the 750 feet at two miles an hour.
Complimentary life jackets for children and adults, as well as submersible wheel chairs, are provided. Shade structures, a tent and large umbrellas offer shade from the sun.
The facility, operated as a utility, is responsible for all debt service, capital and operating costs, including start-up purchases and construction-related costs. More than 2,311 resident and non-resident households joined the facility; only 8 percent of seasonal members were non-residents.
The project has been the inspiration for similar projects in the Garden State and across the country. In keeping with the entrepreneurial spirit of the facility, the township is packaging its demographic data for sale to similar communities.