Opening Up Or Closing Down

Splash pads are not really new. My first encounter with one was in 1989 with an early “in-house custom” model that had been installed at a park in the 1970s.

Proper maintenance is important in running a splash pad or spray ground.

It was essentially a set of holes in a galvanized potable-water supply pipe that was erected 9 feet over a concrete pad; the pad was piped to drain into a creek at the back of the property.

It worked, but it lacked novelty; the concrete slab sustained algae and moss, and every year, a section of pipe or the gate-valve needed replacing. It was eventually removed since it no longer met the wastewater-management code.

Modern splash pads and spray grounds have come a long way. Besides interactive designs and individualized layouts that create unique travel circuits, many are installed with a recirculation system that filters the water and provides a sanitizer, and in many cases, a UV-treatment phase.

Although the modern system is considered better in most instances, it also requires a higher level of technical ability to troubleshoot and maintain to meet the health codes that apply to these features.

The town of Trophy Club’s parks and recreation department in Texas installed a new splash pool in 2010. While a spray ground, splash pad, and splash pool all use the same elements to eject or spray water, a splash pool exists where there is any depth of standing water.

This also creates the need for lifeguards and a few other mandates that come with operating a pool. On the flip side, however, splash pools create opportunities for slides into low water, which are not typically possible with spray grounds and splash pads.

“In all, I have been … satisfied with our spray pool,” says Jacob Lohse, the town’s aquatic coordinator. “It brought in double the amount of people from the year before, and I believe this year will be even better.”

Lohse was very involved with the vendors before the facility was built to ensure he knew as much as possible about the procedures and potential feature problems he might encounter. Despite the upfront knowledge, Lohse said he and his crew are still learning how to manage the unique features.

Develop A Maintenance Plan

The best strategy to protect the value of these investments is to have a customized, comprehensive maintenance program. According to Hillary Boen at Lewisville Parks and Leisure Services in Texas, this starts with conducting a thorough end-of-season inspection and wear-and-repair checklist for features. This past winter, Boen explains, the agency decided to keep water in the “pools.”

“In respect to the splash pads, that means we are keeping water in the surge tank. The feature pumps are closed off and drained to prevent any winter damage. The UV systems are turned off to preserve the light-bulb life. One bulb can get us through about three seasons or one full year. These run about $1,500 each. The pump motors and impellers are inspected during this time,” she says.

“We also order any parts that may need replaced or repaired. We do not typically replace the broken/missing parts until right before the summer starts. The weather is very hard on our splash pads.”

The managers at Lewisville realize they will replace the poured-in-place decking every 5 to 6 years, which allows them to budget for this expense.

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