Trends Summer 2016 | Page 4

MORE THAN MEETS THE EYE T hink a splashpad functions like a simple sprinkler, shooting water in different directions when on and stopping after being turned off? Wrong! A carefully calculated series of events take place behind the scenes. Water sequences are programmed, and interactive features are hydraulically tied together. If one child stops the pressure on a feature by covering the spray nozzle with his or her foot, it influences the pressure on a feature another youngster is playing with. Splashpad features are not all on at the same time either. “We try and sequence them around the pad so that it’s always a guessing game as to where the water’s coming from next,” Blake Theisen explained. “Splashpads run in variable time sequences, depending on how we program them, so once a kid activates it, it will start up, and the water flows. It will cycle through all of our features on the pad for six or 10 minutes.” Theisen programs in four or f ive sequences “in the brain of the system,” and “once a kids learns that, ‘OK, the water goes from A to B to C to D,’ sequence two starts, and it may either reverse it, or it may go A to C to E to B to D. We try to break the monotony of the same sequence every time.” Splashpads are also designed to partition off areas by age group, often a section for toddlers, another for kids 5 to 8, and a third for those ages 9 and older. “Little kids don’t want 20 gallons of water pounding them on the head, but that’s what someone who’s 10, 11, 12 wants to do. They want to have the big soak,” Theisen said. – Jennifer Schmidt 4│TRENDS POPULARITY PICKING UP The Blue Mound State Park splashpad is one of 18 Theisen and MacDonald have designed in the last nine years. Splashpads, also referred to as aquatic playgrounds, spray parks, and splash parks, have skyrocketed in popularity since the mid-2000s, according to both Theisen and MacDonald. They’ve found that many municipal pools were reaching or exceeding their life expectancy, leaving clients debating whether to invest millions of dollars to rebuild their pool or spend a fraction of the cost and install an interactive water feature, which typically has far fewer needs for long-term maintenance, upkeep, and staffing. “They are reasonably affordable for a community to construct and to maintain. There aren’t as many liability issues associated with them as there sometimes can be for pools. They do not require lifeguards, which can be a cost savings for communities, and they fit into almost any kind of landscape,” MacDonald said. “Pool facilities just take a lot more of everything, whereas a splashpad can fit into almost any location in a community.” CONSIDERATIONS MADE When designing splashpads, Theisen and MacDonald consider a host of factors, including parking, ADA standards, shade, location, and proximity to restrooms. “All of that comes into play. If this is going into a pre-existing site, we will definitely make sure that there is ample parking and that it’s very close to restroom facilities, and potential changing rooms need to be within a couple hundred feet of the splashpad,” MacDonald said. Different regulations are associated with different types of splashpads. In a “flow-through” system, water is pumped into the splashpad and either drained into the community’s storm system as wastewater or repurposed for irrigation. A “recirculating system” involves filtering and disinfecting water before its redistributed back into the splashpad features. This type of system is regarded as a pool by the state – thus bringing more regulations. The City of Fitchburg, Wisconsin, opted for a recirculating system when it worked with Theisen and MacDonald to design its McKee Farms splashpad. The Janesville splashpad, located along the Rock River in Riverside Park, also brought its own challenges, including being almost entirely within a floodplain and having no municipal water nearby. Before the splashpad’s construction, the site featured an old, failing wading pool. The City knew it wanted to remove the structure but struggled with what to do in its place – rehabilitate the pool or install a splashpad. A feasibility study and cost comparison helped answer the question. “Instead of just dumping the water, we wanted it recirculated for environmental reasons,” said Paul Woodard, Fitchburg’s former director of public works and city engineer, acknowledging the various code regulations that came with it, such as fencing and water treatment, which he said Theisen helped the City navigate. Previous attempts to put in a pool had fallen through because of initial and ongoing operational costs. The local Optimist Club ultimately assisted the City in raising money for the splashpad’s equipment and features, with the City providing the land and accompanying infrastructure. The McKee Farms splashpad, which pays tribute to the former farmstead it was built on, has been extremely popular with parkgoers. Bordered by an old split row fence and accented by fruit tree orchard landscaping, its spray features include crop rows, a John Deere tractor, a chicken yard, and more – with even the restroom and mechanical building designed as a large red barn with white shutters and trim. So pleased with the end result, Woodard, now public works director for the City of Janesville, Wisconsin, hired Ayres Associates again for a splashpad project there. “I liked what (Theisen) had done with the Fitchburg project,” Woodard said. “The plans that were put together were very well done, and I thought he was good in working with the public on the design options.” The Janesville splashpad was designed to honor the Ice Age Trail and geological glacier movements it’s positioned across. Spray features are shaped like flowers, colored concrete provides a path symbolizing the Ice Age Trail, and custom boulders replicate the glacial repositioning of rocks. Woodard said the splashpads have been well-received in both communities. “They were very well done, they’re very well used, and people seem to enjoy them very much,” he said. “We were very pleased.” TRENDS │5