Spray On

Editor's Note: Parks & Rec Business magazine presents the first part in a year-long series of articles that will focus on... Everything H20, from pool equipment, safety, staffing and programming to profiles and perspectives on the latest aquatics facilities, water parks and splash parks in public parks and recreation.

Boulder City, Nev., located about 25 miles outside of Las Vegas, is one of the family-friendly communities that has grown up quickly next to its glitzier big brother.

Because of its growing demographic, the time had come to add a zero-depth splash park to the mix. The splash park's location would fit perfectly into Boulder City's Veteran's Memorial Park.

Veteran's Memorial has two Little League ball fields, a softball field, a regulation baseball field, beach volleyball courts, a skatepark, a bike park, two lighted soccer fields, a half-acre model boat pond, a three and a half acre fishing pond and now a splash park.

Spearheaded by councilman Mike Pacini, Scott Hansen from public works and the parks and recreation department, the splash park opened in June to much fanfare. After all, says Boulder City's parks and recreation director Roger Hall, a lot of Boulder City's citizens were flocking to nearby Henderson's splash park.

The demand was certainly there, and that demand has been proven by its popularity. Additionally, that demand helps spawn additional revenue as the splash park and the surrounding gazebos and park structures are often rented out for birthday parties.

Circulating Revenue

The spray elements -- designed, built and installed by Vortex Aquatic Structures International -- include a variety of interactive themed elements that spray, splash and drop water in many computer-controlled and user-manipulated varieties.

The city planted 1,032 bushes and 170 trees on the north end. In addition to the five gazebos that ring the site it's adjacent to a new restroom facility and a new BMX track.

Boulder City was able to realize more splash for its cash, in addition to its rentals, with some innovative and good-sense alternative funding and operational ideas.

Hall explains that the splash park does not use a recirculation system, which would require the services of an aquatic technician and regular recirculation maintenance.

Rather, the water goes directly to water treatment and is re-used by local gravel companies. The city actually realizes income by selling its splash park runoff.

"If you dump it into the sewer you don't have to have a lot of the regulation that surrounds recirculation, because you're not reusing the water," explains Hall. "In our case it goes to the plant where it's chlorinated and sold to companies who wash sand with it and they sell the sand to the Las Vegas valley for construction."

Another cost-saving convention employed by Boulder City was to have the gazebo installations donated by local construction companies.

Shane Cunningham, the city's construction inspector, estimates that the installation donations saved the city around $10,000. Cunningham used three different companies for the five different installations, and got the ball rolling by calling a company who had previously made an open offer to help with this type of city project.

"We wanted the gazeboes up before the grand opening, but we wouldn't have been able to go out to public bid and do everything on time, so it saved a lot of time," says Cunningham.

"If you have a tight deadline and you know the local contractors, most are willing to help out. It's a tax-deductible donation as long as they go to the city's finance department and get the forms for it."

Circulating Ideas

As with any new construction, some unforeseen bugs popped up in the system when the water first sprayed out. Primary among those was the wind.

Nevada is not known for its tree coverage, and the lack of wind breaks affected the spray patterns and promoted the aforementioned tree and bush planting.

"When we first opened we had a drainage problem because it was windy and we had the valves open full blast. The gazeboes are 30 or 40 feet away, and the grass in between was saturated, which turned it into a mud pit," explains Hall.

"The water has a tendency to move, so you should turn the valves down to control the water so that it's not full blast when it's windy."

Hall and Cunningham also recommend making the entire splash pad as non-slip as possible. Cunningham says the ideal would be a rubberized, non-slip surface right next to sod, rather than having it ringed in concrete. If it is ringed in concrete, the concrete should have a fairly rough broom finish to reduce slip when the area gets wet.

"If you put the surfacing right next to rocks, dirt or anything like that, it will get into the splash pad. Kids run around that entire place, and may run through the rock and injure themselves. Whatever water does escape should have a place to evaporate and soak into, like sod," says Cunningham.

Proper drainage is another important aspect to keep in mind when planning a splash park as you don't want water pooling up here and there.

"Make sure everything drains to two or three different points, and that the drains are at a critical angle so that the water doesn't pool up," says Hall. "You have to make sure that nothing pools, especially in hot, humid weather because that's when algae grows."

The splash park is open from May to October, when it's closed for the winter. Hall says winterization is straightforward, as they hire someone to blow out the valves and run a non-toxic anti-freeze through the system.

Hall adds that it's a good idea to have a back-up computer system and extra valves in case either a valve or the controller goes down. Both are housed in a typical utility shed.

From a planning perspective, Boulder City found out right away that recruiting local children to help plan the features was a great idea. It promotes pride and care in the new facility, and gives the kids a sense of accomplishment.

"Councilman Mike Pacini spearheaded the children's design team for the city. We contacted the school and had five or six kids from each grade between kindergarten and junior high make up a design team," recalls Hall.

"The kids placed all the pictures of the various themes and toys Vortex offers on a board, and voted on what they wanted to see in the park by placing different colored stickers on the pictures. At the end of the process you have 200 different stickers, which will tell you what they want to see."

Hall says the kids were given design hats and t-shirts, which helped add to their identification as design team members. This helps create additional responsibility, ensuring that the kids will take time and effort to protect their splash park from vandalism and damage.