Sep. 28—Although summer is over for this year, children in Cherokee and Crawford counties will have additional ways to cool off next year with the opening of two new splash pads in Columbus and Pittsburg, Kansas.
The city of Columbus broke ground earlier this month on the town's first splash pad, currently being built at Discovery Park downtown.
"We're finding more ways to make the community a bit more livable. We're not going to have as many amenities as Kansas City or Joplin, but there's no reason why we can't have nice things, too," said Jake Letner, community development coordinator for the city.
Power Play, of Bixby, Oklahoma, a construction company that specializes in splash pad and aquatic play equipment, is the contractor on the project. The estimated completion date is slated for later this year, with the splash pad officially opening to the public in late spring 2022.
"We have the public pool, which is open during the summer months, but what we wanted to do with this is offer another opportunity for youth in our community to get outside and be active," Letner said. "Through the help of generous donations, we were able to make this project possible."
The addition was funded by donations from two local families — Jay and Rhonda Hatfield, as well as Wes and Jan Houser — who contributed $75,000 each. Letner said one of their goals is to draw more people to Discovery Park, a pocket park on South Kansas Avenue and East Pine Street, to show what the city has to offer.
The 2,200-square-foot splash pad will feature a variety of sprayers, dumping water buckets and twirling water streams including a tube cannon and two spray loops.
The city purchased a few benches that will be placed around the splash pad. It will also be compliant with Americans with Disabilities Act standards and can be enjoyed by children of all abilities.
The Everybody Plays committee has been working with the city of Pittsburg to create an inclusive community play space for children and families of all abilities. The group's mission is to create a multigenerational and universally accessible playground.
Barbara Herbert, committee chairperson, said they've worked to revitalize Schlanger Park over the years by adding more accessible equipment, including adjustable basketball goals, accessible swings and the opening of Katherine's Playground, a universally accessible play space.
The group's latest project has been the installation of a new splash pad this summer in Schlanger Park. A soft opening for the splash pad was held earlier this month, with the official opening to take place in spring 2022.
"Previously, there was a wading pool at Schlanger that's been having a lot of maintenance problems and was open for limited hours and needed lifeguards," Herbert said. "We talked about what we could do there, and we've seen some splash pads go in to other parks. Since we already had water to that location, we felt like it would be a good location to install the splash pad."
The wading pool was demolished and served as the foundation of the new splash pad. There are several features, such as a lily pad, a butterfly and equipment that can be used for children in wheelchairs.
"We really tried to pick things that would be appealing to a diverse group of children and for all types of play," Herbert said.
Herbert said the splash pad drew approximately 100 children during its soft opening from Sept. 13 through last weekend.
"It's really gratifying to see kids out having fun," she said. "Even parents have fun watching their children play."
The project cost more than $350,000. Herbert said a private $150,000 donation from 2018 gave them seed money to launch the project. It was partially funded by a Land and Water Conservation Fund grant through the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism to cover the costs.
"We also received $45,000 from Live Well Crawford County and another $10,000 from the Sunflower Kiwanis, who are based here in Pittsburg," Herbert said. "Evergy gave us $10,000 of in-kind donations, and the city of Pittsburg helped cover a lot of costs, too. We are still hoping to have more funds available to install some picnic tables and chairs."