Point Mallard: Water park crowded on opening day

·2 min read

May 29—Over a mile of cars were stuck in traffic Saturday on Point Mallard Drive as they waited to enter the Point Mallard water park for its opening day. All attractions were open, and not an empty parking spot was in sight.

Parks Superintendent Stephanie McLain and her employees had their hands full.

"We had a good crowd today," she said.

Even though the park had just enough lifeguards to open for Memorial Day weekend, McLain said it were more than prepared for opening day because all staff members showed up for work.

"As of right now, all of my attractions are open," McLain said. "A lot of it depends on lifeguard staff, concession staff, maintenance staff. So, it's overall park workers that we have. We have some great employees, and they showed up ready to go to work today."

Athens resident Harry Joiner, 78, relaxed by the swimming pool Saturday with three of his children, all grown. He has been taking his family to Point Mallard since the 1970s.

"My children are here from Houston, Birmingham and Chattanooga," Joiner said. "When they were younger, we were members here for the summer."

Joiner, a retired history professor from Athens State University, said he and his family got to witness the U.S. Olympic diving team practice at the water park in 1976, when it was their official training facility.

"I remember Greg Louganis, he was famous, and Jenny Chandler," Joiner said. "She won the Olympic gold medal."

Joiner said he also remembered when a contest was held at the water park between the American and Russian diving and swim teams around that time.

"The U.S. swim team stayed in a hotel in Decatur, and I remember the coach was from Ohio State (University)," Joiner said. "We would swim here and watch them dive off the high dive. It was wonderful."

Joiner said the water park was special because "there is something for everybody," noting the diversity of the park with its many different rides and attractions. He said the park has added more slides since the 1970s and his favorite attraction has always been the wave pool, the first one in America, built after the park opened in 1970.

Desirae Castro and her family drove to Decatur from Columbia, Tennessee, just to attend opening day at the water park. She has been living in Columbia for eight years and has been attending Point Mallard every summer for the last six years.

She said she doesn't mind making the trip because Columbia has only splash pad attractions and a public swimming pool at the recreation center.

"I like everything about this park," Castro said. "I mean it's packed, but not really. Not like Nashville Shores."

wesley.tomlinson@decaturdaily.com or 256-340-2438.