Splashing Good Times
For several years, splash pads and spray grounds have been identified as desired amenities for all types of recreational environments.
What is it that has made these systems so successful? Here are the leading factors:
Splash play areas provide a unique way of bringing vitality to communities. They bring families together, provide refreshment on a hot summer day, and have the potential to become a gathering point where bonds are formed.
Parents, citizens, and community leaders have taken on the role of ensuring the health and well-being of children and future generations. While kids flock to splash pads for fun, the pads are ideal venues to help develop and maintain active bodies and minds, especially in the following areas:
• Motor skills and coordination
• Aerobic capacity
• Muscular strength
• Agility and reflexes
• Cognitive and sensorial learning.
Unlike organized sports, activities on splash pads are genuinely unstructured and open to creativity, where children make their own rules. Splash-pad interaction helps children to develop socially, giving them the tools to cope with stress and the means to actively solve problems.
The concept of “play for all” or “inclusive play” also is inherent in splash pads. Their zero-depth nature and easily maneuverable features make them accessible to people of all abilities and ages. Cross-generational play is achieved through age-appropriate sections or “bays,” allowing every member of the family to benefit from quality interactions.
With the intent to eliminate danger and create a stress-free family play environment, splash pads have developed systems that consider safety concerns. For instance, with no standing water, the risk of drowning is eliminated. Through engineering and design, considerations are made to effectively eliminate pinch points, protrusions, and risks of head entrapment. This means parents can essentially sit and relax--fully clothed--while they supervise their children, rather than have to accompany them into a swimming pool.
Today, the need to conserve natural resources has become essential. As the popularity of splash pads grow, so does the responsibility of using water in an effective, sustainable way. As such, splash pads offer several conservation options that make them a viable and socially responsible option.
Recirculation systems and capture-and-repurposing systems offer advanced technology for water management, and serve as water-conservation options, as opposed to traditional drain-away systems. They allow effluent water to be contained, filtered, disinfected, and redistributed in a closed circuit, or for the water to be collected and transferred to a containment reservoir to be repurposed to irrigation, leach, or replenishment systems.
Certain physical attributes of the play structures can also reduce water usage. Play features are activated by users on demand only; water isn’t consumed beyond user interaction. The features can also be sequenced so that water flow from feature to feature is distributed proportionally, as opposed to all at once, and will automatically shut off after a set period of time.
High-efficiency nozzles are available in some water features, which reduce the amount of water being expelled.
While splash pads cannot replace full-service pools, they are an affordable way to add a water amenity for a relatively small investment. Compared to splash pads, traditional swimming pools and wading pools have high start-up and maintenance costs.
Less time is required to upkeep the system, and the need for trained staff and lifeguards is lessened, therefore reducing labor costs.
The structures are built to be durable and resistant to vandalism, making repairs and parts replacement minimal.
An increasingly popular option to generate revenue from--or to simply cover the costs for--splash pads is the “pay for play” concept. By charging minimal or no fees to residents, and slightly higher fees to non-residents, spray parks can deliver funds to a department. Considering that pools often have entry fees, visitors are typically willing to spend the money for this experience.
Grow With The Flow
Communities looking for ways to provide water recreation might not be able to build water parks and swimming pools, but they can provide a splash pad relatively easily. One advantage splash pads offer is they are scalable to a current financial situation, and can be expanded as funds become available.
Interchangeable anchoring systems, along with careful planning during the design phase, allow a community to add a splash pad that fits within a budget, while having the capability to add new play products at a later date, stretching the overall cost over several years.
The anchoring system is put in place during the construction phase; the necessary piping is installed, and the unused anchor points are covered with spray caps until new features are ready to be installed. This allows communities to enhance and alter a splash pad over the years by interchanging elements within one splash pad, or even switching products from one splash pad to another one in the community. This refreshes the experience of users without additional cost.
Patricia Rotschild is the Marketing & Design Specialist for Vortex Aquatic Structures International.