Janesville's first splash pad should open in summer

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Marcia Nelesen
December 4, 2013

JANESVILLE--Riverside Park's wading pool had history, but the city's recreation director is confident the splash pad planned for the park has a place in the future.

Janesville's first splash pad should be up and running sometime in summer 2014.

A splash pad offers advantages over the decades-old wading pool there, said Shelley Slapak, recreation director.

She recalled how the city was forced to close the wading and swimming pools last summer despite a run of blistering temperatures after lifeguards returned to school.

No lifeguards are needed at a splash pad because there is no standing water. The features are interactive so the facility operates only when people are there.

The Janesville City Council recently approved about $8,500 in splash pad operating costs as part of the 2014 budget.

The cost to build a splash pad is about $300,000 for eight to 10 water features on 3,000 square feet, Slapak said. The needed money likely will be borrowed next year.

“What's exciting about a splash pad is you can take it in any direction,” Slapak said.

The features have not been decided, and a planning committee will be formed with staff and a member of the park's volunteer group, Friends of Riverside Park. Areas of the pad could be geared to older and younger children, Slapak said.

The design process is the first phase and will include choosing a location. The pad will need to be in full sun, out of the flood plain and near bathrooms, parking and room to expand.

Installation can begin in spring, and Slapak said that should take a few weeks to a month.

“I do think it's great for the community,” Slapak said of the splash pad. “It's something we don't have. I think it's going to be huge.”

She believes it will be huge for Riverside Park, as well.

Locating the splash pad there was a sort of tradeoff with the Friends group for closing the wading pool, which held fond memories for many people.

The Friends of Riverside Park group has worked hard to increase the park's visibility. The group formed after concerns about the park's decline surfaced around 2005. A main goal was to reopen the wading pool, which the city council had closed several years earlier to save money. The Friends believed the wading pool would draw residents.

But even after the pool reopened, the number of users never came close to those using the wading pool at Palmer Park.

This year, 4,580 people visited Riverside's wading pool, while 20,166 were counted at Palmer. Riverside opened two weeks late because of flooding. The operating budget at Riverside was $38,137.

Slapak said she envisions families next year heading for the Palmer Park wading pool one day and the Riverside Park splash pad the next. As the Friends of Riverside Park increase their programming, more people will discover the splash pad, she said.

“I think we've really got to focus our efforts on marketing it,” Slapak said.

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