June 13, 2018 10:23:24 AM
By this time next year, Caledonia might have its own splash pad, continuing a trend that has seen cities and towns move away from operating public pools to this less costly but wildly popular alternative.
Anyone who has visited the splash pads at Propst Park and Sim Scott Park in Columbus and J.L. King Park in Starkville immediately understands their appeal. At all three splash pads, squealing happy kids, even toddlers, are everywhere. It's a perfect, safe and economical way to beat the heat of a summer's day. We particularly commend the cities for strategically locating these splash pads. After all, kids who grow up in poor neighborhoods typically don't have parents who own boats, private swimming pools or have club memberships that give them access to pools.
For municipalities, the advantages of splash pads are obvious: In comparison to pools, splash pads are cheaper to operate and maintain and greatly reduce liability - splash pads are safer because there is no depth of water that could endanger a child.
While we heartily approve the arrival of splash pads and would like to see more of them, we lament that they have become the alternative to pools rather than a complement to them.
There is no doubt that public pools are expensive, yet some cities have found a way to make it work.
Tupelo's $7 million aquatic center draws swimmers for competition from throughout the state and region and has become a part of the city's tourism strategy. Fayette, Alabama opened a public-owned water park. Both are open to citizens for a small fee and provide access to residents who, like kids in Columbus and Starkville, might never get in water deeper than a bathtub.
In Columbus, the YMCA offers programs for non-member children through a range of programs with schools, the Columbus Housing Authority and churches, but they are generally limited due to logistics and member usage of the pool. YMCA Director Andy Boyd said he plans to reach out to the Boys & Girls Club to see if they can arrange a summer swimming program for those children.
As Starkville considers a master-plan for its parks department, some consideration should be given to the Tupelo model. It has proven to be a success at every level while providing a real service to its citizens.
Safety is often something you hear from city officials as an argument against pubic pools. We don't challenge that, obviously. But there is another safety issue that should not be ignored. When a child has no access to pools, they aren't likely to learn to swim or be very proficient at it. Every person should know how to swim. That, too, is a matter of safety.
None of this is intended to criticize the emergence of splash pads, of course.
We just regret the absence of the old city pool and the opportunities it provided our children.