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Featured Insights

Low-Cost Alternative to Swimming Pools

Communities around the country are continually striving to balance between providing their residents with the amenities they want with the realities of a limited budget. The construction, operation, and ongoing maintenance costs of public swimming pools is a prime example of an unsustainable funding drain that most communities have to grapple with.

Enter the splash pad. While they’ve been around for several years, the popularity of splash pads has seen a steady increase in communities around the country over the past decade. Sometimes referred to as spraygrounds, water playgrounds, or splash parks, a splash pad is a recreation area (often in a public park) designed for water play but with little or no standing water. Designs range from simple ground nozzles that spray water upwards out of the splash pad’s deck to more elaborate creations with whimsical, above-ground features that spray, shower, and dump water. Nozzles are often controlled by a push-button to limit run times and preserve water when not in use.

Whether designed as a stand-alone feature or as part of a larger park complex, splash pads expand the summertime cooling options without the exorbitant expenses involved with traditional swimming pools. Snyder & Associates has been at the forefront of helping communities of all sizes create the perfect splash pad arrangement to complement their existing parks and urban areas. With a plethora of designs and vendors available, the Snyder & Associates team can steer communities to the best option for their particular situation.

While the splash pad options and arrangements are nearly endless, most of these facilities use a textured, non-slip concrete surface for safe play. Color can be added to the concrete to match existing landscaping and other aesthetic features of the area. Many splash pads are also designed with different “zones” for varying levels of activity. High-energy sprays and streams may be used in areas for older children and teens, while other sections can be dedicated to lower-energy activities where toddlers and their parents can safely play. Perhaps best of all, the zero-entrance nature of the typical splash pad design makes them ADA accessible.

Snyder & Associates Splash Pads Project Sampling

Fairmount Park in Council Bluffs

The Fairmount Park splash pad used short retaining walls for separation from the local walking trail.

In their efforts to revitalize historic Fairmount Park in Council Bluffs, Snyder & Associates was selected by community leaders to provide design services, construction documents, and construction administration for a central plaza and the town’s first water playground. Our team designed this splash pad play area around the patented Vortex Splashpad® system. Vortex has been creating and installing splash pads and associated components for over 25 years.

The splash pad included 2,100 sq. ft. of spray area with 11 unique spray components. This expansive park project also included two open shelters, retaining walls, a fire ring, specialty pavement, and trail connections to the park. The community of Council Bluffs’ “Return to Fairmount Park” initiative aims to once again attract families and visitors to gather, play, and enjoy this historic park location.

Prairie Heritage Civic Center Plaza in Altoona

The splash pad at the Prairie Heritage Civic Center Plaza blends seamlessly with the surrounding public space.

The splash pad at the Prairie Heritage Civic Center Plaza in Altoona shares a similar theme as Fairmount Park in that both projects were part of a larger master plan. Prairie Heritage Plaza is a centrally located 11-acre park linked to the surrounding residential and commercial developments through a series of trails and greenways. Snyder & Associates was commissioned to complete a Civic Plaza Master Plan that explored the feasibility of expanding this location into a unique community destination.

Primary amenities included space for community events, such as outdoor concerts, art fairs, and farmer’s markets. The Master Plan design incorporated entry pergolas and planters, an outdoor amphitheater, restroom building, gazebo, sculptural plaza, pond, wetlands, waterfall, boardwalk, trails, landscape enhancements and, of course, the splash pad area. Other unique design elements include a customized entry fountain, specialty plaza-colored pavement design, and permeable paver faux river drainage system.

This project won the 2010 Award of Honor as the top project in the State of Iowa in the Design Category from the Iowa Chapter of the American Society of Landscape Architects.

Fairmeadows Park in Iowa City & Community Park in Walnut

A dry area alongside the Walnut Community Park splash pad allows parents to keep watch over younger children.

These two splash pad projects were additions to existing parks in both communities. In Iowa City, the Snyder & Associates team designed a stand-alone splash pad for the 10-acre Fairmeadows Park. Encompassing 3,000 sq. ft. with 18 different spray components, our team again opted for versatile Vortex products for this community splash pad. This design also incorporated a 136 gallons per minute recirculation system for better water quality management and included separate bays for toddlers, teens, and families.

The City of Walnut in western Iowa hired our team to develop a flow-through splash pad located in an existing community park. The project included a 3,225 sq. ft. non-slip, concrete pad with a diverse array of water features, an equipment vault, and all necessary utility services. Similar to other splash pads, it’s designed to accommodate various age groups and incorporates colorful, interactive features to enhance the play experience. The concrete pad was made oversized to allow for “dry” areas that provide parents a front-row point of observation.

In addition to these highlighted locations, our designers have also created splash pad play areas in the Ankeny community at Crestbruck and Sunrise Parks, along with a host of other locations. With a seasoned team of experts on staff, contact Snyder & Associates to see what our design team can do to bring a water play facility to your community.

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