Here To Spray

Known as a vacation destination to many, the city of St. Petersburg, Fla., is nestled on a peninsula between Tampa Bay and the Gulf of Mexico. To those who call it home, the “Sunshine City” boasts a neighborhood gem--Dell Holmes Park. Known originally as Lakeview Park, it was renamed in 2003 to honor the city’s late parks director, Dell Holmes. For more than two decades, Holmes served the city and championed the park’s restoration. Shortly after the name change, funding became available and helped the park become what it is today--a fulfillment of Holmes’ vision. Above all, the veteran parks director wanted to offer the community a beautiful, inspiring and natural place to visit, one that might even make you feel like a kid again.

Working closely with the city, Wade Trim--a national civil engineering and planning firm--provided environmental planning and design for the park’s comprehensive master plan. The contractor of record for the 21.5-acre park was Orlando, Fla.-based Construct Two Construction Managers Inc.

The park offers:

• Accessible, lighted fitness trail

• Golf driving range and putting green

• Climbing boulders

• Fishing pier

• Year-round fishing in Lake Maggiore, a 380-acre freshwater lake

• Gazebo

• Picnic shelters and grills

• Shaded, covered boundless playground with a giant seesaw.

In keeping with Holmes’ vision, the park continues to stay on the cutting edge of recreation for all ages. In May 2009, St. Petersburg’s first stand-alone splash pad water playground opened for business in the park. While the park is well attended year-round due to Florida’s temperate climate, residents now have an added incentive to visit during the summer months.

Wade Trim’s design team once again joined forces with the city to move the project forward. While collaborating with the spray-ground manufacturer, the firm provided site-planning services and civil, electrical and utilities engineering.

Making A Splash

Up to 70 children can use the 2,200-square-foot spray park at once.

“The splash pad is very popular,” says Steve Ochsner, the city’s project manager. “Kids wait in line on the weekends for the park to open.”

The recreational area was designed in a figure-eight layout to encourage interaction and movement through the larger-than-life features, including flowers, frogs and a motif of cattails. Refreshing water features--sprinklers, misters and floor jets--are enjoyed by children as they move through the water wonderland.

Visiting children activate the whimsical spray features by setting off motion sensors in the bollard. The spray actions are set for 15-minute periods, until they are triggered again. The system operates on a timer from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m., and is open seasonally from May 1 to October 31.

More For Your Money

While the splash pad seems like fun for all ages, one might ask: What are the economics of such an elaborate park feature? The answer is simple: It provides members of the community and visitors with all the amusement of a traditional swimming pool--without the added expense.

For starters, the installation price is significantly lower than that of a public pool. Additionally, ongoing maintenance costs for the park’s splash pad are minimal compared to those of the other two public pools in the city.

The annual maintenance, including a six-month staff, repairs and chemicals, is approximately $100,000. Lifeguards are not required, which can result in a $50,000 annual savings over traditional pools.

“A cost-saving area that I really appreciate about splash pads is that fewer chemicals are needed to serve the same number of users,” says a representative from Ferris Pools, one of the project’s consultants. “This is because the volume of the water needing to be treated is much less than that of a pool.”

In addition to structural savings, a 3,000-gallon cistern tank recycles water, cutting down on utility costs. Similar to that of a traditional pool, liquid chlorine and muriatic acid disinfection are combined with a sand-filter system to clean the recirculated water and protect users from waterborne illnesses.

Go With The Flow

To keep the installation running smoothly, two heavy-duty skimmers were added to the design of the splash pad this winter. The upgrade--catching all types of debris from barrettes to leaves--cost approximately $8,000. Rinsed twice a week, the skimmers help to maintain the highest level of splash-pad performance and cleanliness.

Additionally, an inconspicuous under-drain was recently installed near the main gate, eliminating pooling that had undermined the highly trafficked ForeverLawn synthetic-grass feature.

Future improvements may include adding carbon dioxide to help maintain the alkalinity, and installing ultraviolet light or ozone to supplement disinfection; removing chlorine-based disinfectants will eliminate skin irritation, red eyes and a lasting pool smell for visitors. Best of all, these technologies are safe, chemical-free and environmentally friendly.

Additional seating around the park is also a consideration.

A Little Vision Goes A Long Way

The new, interactive water playground is helping the park inspire the next generation of guests.

“I took my little rascals to the newly redone [park], and afterward it made me wish I could go back in time to being 10 again,” says Terry Tomalin, outdoors editor for the St. Petersburg Times.

Holmes would be thrilled at this reaction to the park. His dream has become a reality for this Florida community.

Sharon Heal Eichler , RLA, ASLA, LEED AP, is a Senior Landscape Architect with Wade Trim, Inc., a leading engineering, landscape architecture and planning firm, with 19 offices located in eight states. She can be reached at (813) 882-8366 or