A digital rendering of the plans for the Tarpon Springs Sprayground.
TARPON SPRINGS – In the promotional video for the Tarpon Springs Sprayground, digitized children giggle and splash as fountains of manatees and sponge divers rain down chlorinated water. Mist floats outward from the bottom of a lighthouse. Jets of water spurt from sponges and starfish on the side of a two-lane slide.
By summer, the giggles and splashes will be a reality in Tarpon Springs.
On Nov. 19, the Tarpon Springs City Commission approved a $435,369.75 contract with the U.S. Communities Purchasing Alliance to begin work on a 100 foot by 60 foot splash park, part of the North Safford Recreation Corridor near the intersection of Live Oak Street and Safford Avenue.
The park, expected to be completed in time for summer, will include 14 aboveground sprays, 14 underground sprays, automatic backwash and a strike guard system as early warning for lightning, according to Jeff Jones, president of Aquamarine Swimming Pool Co., the company that will build the park. Eventually, the city plans to add shade structures, restrooms and picnic shelters.
Jones, a certified installer for the Ohio-based Rain Drop Products who designed the playground, said that they worked closely with the city to create a theme and special parts appropriate for Tarpon Springs.
At the Commission meeting, City Manager Mark LeCouris pointed out that the plans for the splash park include features relevant to Tarpon, the sponges and the marine life.
“We want to put our culture and appreciation of the Anclote River into the park,” he said. “Fun things that have some meaning to the community.”
The splash park, which will reach capacity between 50 and 60 children, will be timed to limit excess water usage. Once a child walks in front of an automated sensor, the park will cycle through a 15-minute choreographed spray including slides and fountains.
The gates to the park will be run on electric timers and controlled through magnetic locks by either the city’s control system or a system at the compound. Although park times have not yet been set, hours will likely be 7:30 a.m. to dusk.
The park will use a recirculation system, where the water is treated, filtered and reused in the fountains and sprays, rather than a waste water system that drains water after one use. Jones said water consumption is proportional to daily use, but he estimated that 350 people a day would use between 1,000 and 1,500 gallons of water. Other days, during school and in the winter, he said, might only require five or 10 gallons.
Once the newness wears off and they understand how to operate and control (the park),” Jones said, “the water consumption stabilizes.”
The strike guard system uses lights to warn patrons of incoming lightning, updating scans at 20 and 15 miles away. When lightning is five miles away, the park shuts down completely.
In 2009, Dunedin opened its own splash park, also built by Aquamarine Swimming Pool Co.
“To say Dunedin has been very successful is an understatement,” Jones said. “The day they opened up, they reached the point where they had to turn kids away. And the surprise was that they were pulling them in from surrounding communities.”
He expects no less when the Tarpon park opens in the summer.
“In all my years of installing spraygrounds, I’ve never seen one that wasn’t successful,” Jones said. “They fill a niche from toddlers up to about 13 or 14 years old.