Summer’s coming to an end soon, but area children and families can start looking forward to having a new option for water fun in town next year.

Construction on the city’s first-ever splash pad is expected to be completed by Oct. 1, according to Columbus City Administrator Tara Vasicek. A splash pad is a recreation area, often in a public park, for water play that has little or no standing water. This is said to eliminate the need for lifeguards or other supervision, as there is little risk of drowning.

The pad will be installed directly west of the new restroom area in Glurk Park, Vasicek noted, adding that the $120,000 being spent on the project is from sales tax revenue Columbus residents already passed. 

The splash pad, which is projected to open when the weather is warm enough, is meant to complement the Pawnee Plunge and not compete with it, city officials stressed.

 “This is for smaller recreation purposes,” Columbus Mayor Jim Bulkley said, noting it will be modest in design and feature some devices that spray water. “We have the awesome Pawnee Plunge, and it is. I think it’s probably one of the best in the state, but it’s down on the south side of town. So we as a council asked what we could do to stimulate some excitement in other areas of town.”

As city councilors discussed potential location spots, the mayor said Glur Park made the most sense for several reasons. Other areas of town already boast recreation options like the golf courses, the Plunge and tennis courts, among others. Putting the splash pad in Glur Park will enhance what’s already there and not take away from it while being close to a large segment of residents, the mayor said.

Glur Park, near the intersection of 26th Avenue and 28th Street, is a six-acre area that boasts playground space, a covered shelter, picnic tables, basketball hoops and an older tennis court, among other things. The splash pad would offer kids in the vicinity an easy way to cool down without having to travel to the other side of town to do so every single time.

 “What do you have over there?” Bulkley said, referencing the north-central part of town. “That part of town has a lot of our population, and the park is a good size. You also take away green space by putting this in, but there’s enough room that you’re not taking much away. You’re not going to eliminate it, which is important, because people enjoy that.”

Vasicek shared a similar perspective, noting the accessibility for children seemed to make Glur Park a good fit.

Splash pads aren’t exactly a new concept, though. They’ve become quite popular in communities across the country and throughout Nebraska, such as Omaha, Lincoln, Grand Island, Fremont and Norfolk. Omaha’s world-famous Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium opened its Alaskan Adventure splash pad a few years ago to much success and fanfare from visitors worldwide.

Fremont has four splash pads, while Norfolk and Grand Island have one each. Norfolk’s is in Embrace Park and something city officials consider an asset.

“The splash pad has proven to be a great investment and wonderful addition to our community. Our splash pad has numerous features that encourage interaction which can result in impromptu games for the kids. Kids can blast each other with water cannons and anxiously stand together in anticipation of 'the bucket' to drop its water on them from the tower above,” said Liz Wallace, communications manager for the City of Norfolk. “The best thing about the splash pad is that it offers universal accessibility for all ages and all types of physical abilities. It has been jam-packed all summer and we are so pleased to have it in our community.”

Grand Island put in a splash pad earlier this year at the Veterans Athletic Complex. Its parks & recreation director, Todd McCoy, said it has been very popular with residents and visitors.

Bulkley said that Columbus city officials will await feedback from the community once the splash pad opens up, and if they get the positive response he and others are anticipating, there will likely be a discussion about opening additional splash pads in other parts of town in the future.

“I think we’ll get some momentum going,” Bulkley said. “Don’t get me wrong - $120,000 is not chump change to get some entertainment. But, if this is a way to bring some excitement to another part of town, I think it’s a great way to spend some money and make it happen. I really do.

“If it does what we hope it does, we will look at where we will go next.”

Matt Lindberg is the managing editor of The Columbus Telegram. Reach him via email at matt.lindberg@lee.net.

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Managing Editor

Matt Lindberg is an award-winning journalist and graduate of the University of Kansas.

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