Spray parks are making a splash around the U.S.
“Spray parks are sprouting up in communities across the country and for good reason, since they offer a multitude of advantages over traditional swimming pools,” said Pittsburgh’s Mayor Luke Ravenstahl at the recent groundbreaking for a spray park in the Troy Hill neighborhood on Pittsburgh’s north side.
Ravenstahl added that since the spray park will operate via manual or sensor-activated controls, residents will enjoy an extended operating season in the facility from late spring to early fall. Traditional swimming pools, he noted, have shorter summer sessions. Although the park will require a level of adult supervision, certified lifeguards will not be mandatory.
Project architect James Sauer, who is principal of J.T. Sauer & Associates, noted: “The Troy Hill Spray Park will feature an exciting world of unpredictable sprayers, custom animal features and other above- and below-ground water features.”
According to Sauer, spray parks appeal to a wide age range, as “children don’t necessarily need swimming skills to enjoy the benefits of spray parks.”
“From the tiniest toddler to a 12-year-old adventurer, and even those using wheelchairs, children of all ages and abilities can enter with equal enthusiasm.” Sauer said.
A safe play environment
For parents and caregivers, pools can be worrisome play destinations. Whether supervising an unsteady toddler in a baby pool or keeping track of offspring in a crowd of youngsters wearing nearly identical swimsuits, relaxation may not be an option for adult chaperones at the neighborhood pool.
Spray parks, which sometimes are called “spraygrounds” or “splash pads,” offer play areas featuring jet streams, fountains and various sprayers that allow children to cool down in a fun yet safe environment. Water is drained away before it can accumulate, reducing drowning risks and potential panic among parents. Caregivers and parents can stay seated on the sidelines, and still supervise play.
Some communities see spray parks as a way to cope with tight budgets. In Worcester, Mass., the nine city-operated pools, most of which were built in the 1970s, are in serious need of repair.
City officials in Worcester have unveiled a plan to renovate five of the swimming pools, replace three others with spray parks and close one. The city administration has committed $2 million a year for five years for capital improvements, but has said that even that much money is not enough to save all nine of the city’s poorly maintained swimming pools.
At the upcoming 2008 National Recreation and Park Association Congress and Exposition, key design elements of spray parks will be covered in a congress session. Other topics to be addressed include location considerations and selection of components in an effort to develop a complete and inclusive recreation facility as well as the ongoing operational issues of such a facility. The NRPA Congress and Exposition runs from Oct. 14-18 in Baltimore.