Splash pads look for liquid capital

Several grants are in place for the summer coolers, but more is needed

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WALLA WALLA — By this time next year families may be beating the summer heat at the community’s first splash pad.

Proponents of a series of the zero-depth water playgrounds are plunging into plans for their first one with a vision to open in Washington Park next Memorial Day.

How to help

Noon Rotary and the Sherwood Trust 2013 Leadership Class are leading separate fundraising efforts. To learn more about the Sherwood class, follow Fountains for Youth on Facebook.

Donations can be made to Rotary Foundation of Walla Walla, P.O. Box 418, Walla Walla, WA 99362

To see examples of various water toys and splash pad concepts, click here or here.

Walla Walla’s Noon Rotary Club, one of the groups behind the grassroots movement raising funds for construction, has secured a $200,000 Donald & Virginia Sherwood Trust grant. That amount is half of the estimated cost of one splash pad.

With another pledge of at least $30,000 from the Rotary group itself and another $20,000 from partners in the Sherwood Trust 2013 Leadership Class, the first of three proposed splash pads is getting closer to reality.

Now the groups are looking to local companies, benefactors and other donor groups to help raise the remaining cost.

“Hopefully it will spark some interest,” said Rotarian Casey Goodwin. “We’re hoping to raise enough funds to have excess.”

The Rotarians, Sherwood Trust Leadership Class students and the Walla Walla Parks and Recreation Department are working hand-in-hand to bring water playgrounds to the masses after three failed attempts at the polls for aquatic centers in recent years.

Splash pads are basically interactive water playgrounds with toys that spray water in a variety of ways. In an effort to include the community, the public will be asked to participate in the selection of fountains and water toys.

The first such water playground is planned for Washington Park. Josh Powell, a member of the Sherwood leadership class, said the park was selected based on need. More than 3,000 free lunches are served at the park as part of the city’s summer program. The park also has an ideal footprint for the splash pad.

Preliminarily the locations will depend on space — both for building the splash pads and for supporting parking. Due to the latter, Wildwood Park would likely be out of the running, for instance.

At this point, proponents have their eyes on Eastgate Lions Park and Howard Tietan Park as frontrunners for the other two splash pads, said Parks and Recreation Director Jim Dumont. But those projects remain tentative.

First and foremost, proponents are focused on building community buy-in for the initial splash pad.

“It’s really important our community knows it’s going to be fund raised,” said Sherwood leadership participant Denise Shives. “There’s no tax money involved.

“To me, what’s really exciting about this is this is just community people seeing the need and going for it.”

The leadership class has started a Facebook page — Fountains for Youth — and is working to engage followers. A logo contest is under way, for example, and the winner is expected to be announced July 15.

In the meantime, proponents are also hoping to entice buy-in from donors through the redeeming properties of the splash pads themselves. Water from the 28,000-gallon tanks underground supplying to fountains and toys can be reused for turf irrigation.

They’re also hoping to appeal to elderly donors looking to take advantage of a special IRA tax option, said Rotarian Lawson Knight. Through the end of this year, those at least 70 1/2 can borrow up to $100,000, depending on their individual IRAs, as long as the request meets the required minimium distribution.

Vicki Hillhouse can be reached at vickihillhouse@wwub.com or 526-8321.

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