Children could have a new splash pad this summer where they can play in shallow water as fountains spray, mist and dump water on an aquatic playground.
But a proposed location at South Park, while generally supported by town officials, could mean altering the town’s Fourth of July celebration held there.
Plans for a splash pad – sometimes also called a sprayground – ratcheted up in the fall when the town’s staff released a multi-year plan for park spending around town. Commissioners Jason Wunsch and William Harris led the rest of the board in a push to make a splash pad a priority.
At the commissioners’ annual retreat, held in Pinehurst earlier this month, Town Manager Adam Mitchell unveiled several options. Commissioners said they like an option that would build a 75-by-75 splashpad for $250,000.
He asked the commissioners to consider bringing them up for a vote as soon as possible to get the project funded and built by Memorial Day, the symbolic start of summer.
“It’s something that will bring our community together,” Wunsch said. “And it’s something that every community doesn’t have. It sets us apart.”
The town has two options for the splash pad, Mitchell said.
One is at Falcon Park, which has been closed but is scheduled to reopen in April. The other is at South Park, at the edge of the woods next to the playground.
The commissioners overwhelmingly approved the South Park site because there are town staff members on site frequently with the community center, whereas Falcon Park has no permanent or part-time staff.
But South Park isn’t a perfect location because of the town’s Fourth of July celebration.
The splash pad would go where the bandstand sets up now, Mitchell said. The town could move the band to the parking lot, Mitchell said. But parking would likely still be an issue.
And while South Park is the best spot for the splash pad, he said, it’s also the best and possibly only spot where fireworks can be legally shot off.
“The only spot we have on that site, and maybe in the whole town, is that field right there,” Mitchell said, gesturing to a map of the park.
Town commissioners didn’t fully resolve Independence Day issues at their retreat, although they did move ahead with some design questions for the splash pad.
They said they would want to spend more money to install a water recycling pump, saving costs in the future and reducing its environmental impact. They also said they didn’t support a plan to build a 75-by-150-foot splash pad for $500,000.
“I’d prefer spending $250,000 and waiting to see if people come,” commissioner Blake Massengill said, advocating for a design that’s 75-by-75 feet that later could be expanded.
Once the plans and funds are approved, the commissioners and town staff will be able to focus on the fun part of the work: picking the colorful features they think kids will like the most.
There are palm trees, water towers, windmills, frogs, pelicans, mushrooms and even dueling water balloon stations to choose from.
“I mean, there’s tons of cool stuff you can do,” Mitchell said.