There’s just something about summer that cries out for water. Not just the kind you drink, either. The best summer water is the kind to wade, play, float, splash and swim in. When people head out to “the old swimming hole” these days, they’re heading to the nearest swimming pool or water recreation facility to beat the heat and spend a happy summer afternoon. We’ve come a long way from Granny Clampett’s “cee-ment pond.” There are many options available depending on site availability, planned usage and the ever-important budget constraints.
What about a pool? It’s a great draw and can be quite versatile, but considerations need to be made as to safety, liability, maintenance, operating expense and staffing. A pool is on the more expensive end of the installation spectrum, but might serve double duty by being available for swim team practice or meets as well as recreational swimming. Your community or your park could sponsor a team. Or you could work with a local high school that has a swim team but not its own on-site pool. If you are starting from scratch the pool could be designed to accommodate proper lane lengths; if an existing pool is being used or refurbished, you could consider a portable bulkhead that could be moved and adjusted for lane length.
Most public pools these days do not have diving boards. The primary consideration is safety, of course. The secondary consideration is in the design/installation – if diving is not allowed, the pool doesn’t have to be as deep, so a bit less expensive to build and less water usage. In lieu of a board, some pools will feature (or add) a small water slide or two as an attraction.
Incorporating water aerobics would be a bit trickier, but still could be done. Most water aerobics are done in warm-water pools, usually indoors. But in deep summer the water won’t be as cold and the pool could be utilized for aerobics on a limited basis. If your pool has, or could accommodate, a current walk (also called a lazy river, depending on dimensions) the jets could be turned up for maximum resistance while exercising.
Many newer pools feature zero-depth entry, providing a gentle slope from one end of the pool that gradually deepens. Whether floored in concrete or plastic decking, it creates a great area for kids to splash and play in very shallow water. It’s also a great place to incorporate a sprinkler or other water feature that makes it even more fun.
Perhaps a pool isn’t your best fit. A splash pad is the ideal solution in a situation where you don’t have the space or simply don’t want to deal with excavation and the expense of pool construction and maintenance. Splash pads offer many optional features that can be combined or configured in different ways. They are more cost-efficient to maintain, would require no fencing and there would be no need for a lifeguard on duty. From “mushroom” sprinklers to bubblers to fountains or jets that spray water at intervals, the splash pad allows for maximum water fun with minimum outlay or upkeep.
Whether pool or splash pad, consider incorporating some adjacent shade structures with seating as an accommodation. Again, you can add amenities as you prefer or as the budget allows.
Hot summer and cool water. The best combination ever. With even the simplest water feature, your park will be a happy destination for families in your community.
Civil engineer Jim Gilliam, PE, is a Vice President of Nashville-based HFR Design, and has 20 years of experience in the planning and design of recreational facilities, sports fields, roadways and site development. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling (615) 370-8500