June 13, 2018 10:23:41 AM
Slim Smith - [email protected]
The town of Caledonia hopes to make a big splash at a one-acre parcel located next to the YMCA.
The land, owned by the YMCA and leased to the town, is currently used as practice field, but as early as next summer it could be the site of a splash pad.
Splash pads are outdoor play areas equipped with sprinklers, fountains, nozzles and other devices that spray water.
"It's something the board of aldermen have been talking about for a long time," Mayor Mitch Wiggins said. "We thought it might take three or four years to do this, but when the Y agreed to work with us on the land for the splash pad, that really pushed things along."
YMCA director Andy Boyd said he was asked about selling the property to the town. Realizing the splash pad next door would be another amenity available to YMCA members, he suggested leasing the property to the city for a token fee.
"I don't want to get ahead of myself because it's a decision our board would have to make, but the idea is to lease the property to the town for $1 or something like that," he said. "That would allow them to get started on the splash pad. I definitely think it would add value. Right now, it's just an empty lot."
Boyd said he expects the board to approve the arrangement at its June meeting.
In the meantime, the Caledonia aldermen will weigh their options as to what kind of splash pad they want to install.
Wiggins said one option would be a splash pad where the water drains into the town's sewer system, which would be cheap to build and maintain, but costly in terms of water usage. The other, most common option is a system that re-circulates the water through a filtration system, which would be more costly on the front end and have slightly higher maintenance costs, but would save money overtime because water usage is kept to a minimum.
"The aldermen haven't decided on that yet, but I think we'll probably go with the re-circulated option," he said.
Wiggins said after talking to officials in Amory, Baldwyn and Vernon, Alabama, about their splash pads, a comparable splash pad would cost "$75,000 at the high end."
He said some of that cost might be mitigated if the county's road department provides some of the concrete and plumbing work as an in-kind contribution.
Other area splash pads
Columbus has operated splash pads at Propst and Sim Scott parks for more than 10 years. They've received nothing but praise from Columbus Parks and Recreation Director Greg Lewis.
The splash pads are open from 10 a.m. until 7 p.m. every day.
"They are extremely popular," Lewis said. "The kids love them and, on our end, they are a lot less expensive to operate than a pool.
"Really, there's not much cost, just routine maintenance," he added. "You might have to replace a sensor pad (which triggers the flow of water at each feature). You'll have a pipe leak to fix every once and a while and filters to clean and change. But really, the cost is very little. It uses very little water, since it's re-circulated. About all we have to do is top off the water tanks every once in a while to replace the water that has evaporated."
That was something the city of Starkville learned six years ago when the city closed its pool at J.L. King Park and replaced it was a splash pad.
"The pool just wasn't being used all that much," said Mayor Lynn Spruill, who was the city's chief administrative officer in 2012 when the splash pad was installed. "Since we added the splash pad, a lot more children are out there. It turned out to be a great decision."
Spruill said in addition to higher use and lower maintenance costs, splash pads have another important advantage over pools.
"Nobody drowns at a splash pad," she said.
Spruill said the splash pad has been so well-received, she could see adding another one as the city considers as master plan for its recreation department.
"It would be great for the little ones to have that when they're out there while big brother and big sister are playing ball," she said.
Wiggins, meanwhile, said the Caledonia aldermen will soon begin hearing from splash pad vendors and putting together a plan to finance the splash pad, either through the budget process for Fiscal Year 2019 or by using money from its reserves.
"We're excited," Wiggins said. "Hopefully, by next summer we'll have our splash pad up and running."
Slim Smith is a columnist and feature writer for The Dispatch. His email address is [email protected]