Splash pads have been making waves in communities across the country for several years. With the myriad of benefits they offer, it’s no surprise they have become one of the most requested program elements for parks and public spaces.
With lower maintenance requirements than pools, splash pads offer an interactive and engaging way to cool off in the summer months without the operational costs associated with lifeguards or other staffing. Splash pads are often free to the public and with no standing water, eliminate the liability and risk of drowning.
Before you begin planning your city’s next splash pad, here are eight things you should know.
- Splash pads are perfect for toddlers and teens, but be sure to include all potential users in your plans. Think about how adults can engage in the amenity. The final design should be comfortable, memorable and functional for everyone.
- Incorporate sun protection and shade within your design to ensure park patrons will use the facility even in the hottest months. Proper siting of a splash pad is critical. Are there existing trees or buildings that can offer shade during the hottest hours of the day? If not, consider planting some appropriate tree species or including a shade structure in the final plan.
- Decide where the water source will come from and how the water will be used. Does the city require treatment and reuse, or can the water be directed to the stormwater treatment system? Using treated water for a single use is not the most environmentally sensitive approach; however, it does not require the cost and maintenance of recirculation. The cost of the water usage may also be significant. This decision impacts the design of the splash elements. Water to waste splash pads don’t have to have the water tested regularly and can be more open to the public and their pets. On the other hand, a recirculation system may need to have a fence or barrier to eliminate the possibility of contamination for the safety of the public. Some other important operational questions include winterization and automation. Will the water be controlled by the users through the use of a motion sensor or push activation? Or, is the water feature also considered a fountain that is an amenity that runs constantly?
- As you begin planning, determine how the splash pad can be elevated with lights and sounds. Colored LED lights can add a beautiful or fun nighttime atmosphere. Lighting can be constant or playful with various lights and effects relating to the movement of the water. Sounds can also correlate to the theme of the splash pad or simply be created by the movement of the water from various heights over a variety of surfaces.
- Make the experience interactive. Allow visitors the opportunity to control the movement of the water or the timing of the effects. Giving the users of the splash pad some control increases the level of engagement and the play value of the experience.
- Incorporate art to inspire even the smallest visitors. Art elements can assist with the theming of the splash pad amenity and add an engaging element for users not interested in getting wet. While the art can include a wet component, it can also be incorporated into the design of the amenities supporting the splash pad.
- Customize. While splash pad play equipment can be purchased off the shelf, we recommend incorporating some custom features as well. If your splash pad is part of a larger park or public space, there may be opportunities to create a unique, one-of-a-kind experience in your community.
- Prepare a maintenance plan with a budget and be realistic. Ask yourself if you’d like to winterize the splash pad and estimate when you might need repairs. Then, use those answers, along with the rest of your data, to create your budget.
Let us help you create a memorable and engaging splash pad. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more.