Excited about a West Seattle spray park? Help pump up the plan

That’s the wading pool in Highland Park, which didn’t open last summer because the city hadn’t done federally mandated safety upgrades. They’d been shelved because it’s slated to be converted to a spray park (as first reported here six months ago). Right now, the city’s Parks and Green Spaces Levy has allocated $100,000 for the conversion, but by all accounts, that’s not much — even a top Parks manager told the Levy Oversight Committee it’s “horribly underfunded.”. So community member Carolyn Stauffer is putting together an application to seek supplemental money from the levy’s Opportunity Fund, which is accepting applications soon, with the first step – letters of interest – due in just about a week. She’s asking for more support to show that West Seattle backs the concept of a really nice spray park. As she’s written in the letter she shared with us, “We fear a minimally funded or basically designed spray park for the next 20 years- or a dilapidated wading pool that is no longer filled with water in the summer. The possibility to apply for extra resources through the Opportunity Fund has given us hope that we could have an exemplary play experience right in the heart of our community.” HOW YOU CAN HELP: Carolyn’s looking for groups to voice support (individuals welcome too); e-mail her at carolynstauffer@gmail.com. Read on for the full outline of the letter she’s drafted to start the Opportunity Fund application:

Background and Summary
The summer of 2009 was the hottest summer on record in Seattle and Highland Park Wading Pool (Seattle Parks) was closed due to budget concerns over staffing requirements and water use. Now it is on the boards to be renovated from a wading pool into a spray park, which has considerable reduced maintenance and operational costs relative to a wading pool. While we, as a community, are thrilled that Highland Park was considered for such an exciting renewal, we want to guarantee that the Highland Park Spray Park Project has the means to make it the spray park that our often unseen community is deserving of. Highland Park is interested in having a spray park that acts as an example for future spray parks in the city. We want the Highland Park Spray Park to be the showpiece of sustainability and smart design, a demonstration to our city, and the country, of what an exciting opportunity old wading pools create for safer, water-wise water play, and innovative re-constructed landscapes. We feel confident that the design team that has been chosen is the best in the northwest for the job, and we want to ensure that the funds are available for them to be able to perform their task in a way that is responsible to our unique and often overlooked community. We fear a minimally funded or basically designed spray park for the next 20 years- or a dilapidated wading pool that is no longer filled with water in the summer. The possibility to apply for extra resources through the Opportunity Fund has given us hope that we could have an exemplary play experience right in the heart of our community. We are seeking resources from the Opportunity Fund for the Highland Park Spray Park with the intention that the project priorities be water conservation, water safety, exceptional water play, and integrated sustainable design unique to Highland Park.

Plan consistency
The Highland Park Spray Park Project is a levy named project selected by Seattle Parks’ staff that is underfunded. We are concerned with securing additional funds for it. As such, it is consistent with a parks approved plan and with the Seattle Parks master plan.

Community support:
We have the solid support of the Highland Park Action Committee, an active group of citizens in Highland Park concerned with neighborhood issues such as safety, art, culture, sustainability, and civic pride. For the Opportunity Fund application, we also appreciate the support of other community groups [editor’s note – Carolyn’s adding names as she finalizes commitments] . As with anything new and exciting in a neighborhood: “build it and they will come… “ Active parks have proven to be a perfect backdrop for community building- which begins with meeting your neighbors. A spray park of this caliper in such a rapidly changing neighborhood will no doubt become a prime meeting place in our community.

Creative design
The Highland Park Spray Park has great potential to act as a showpiece of sustainable water use and smart design. As stated in the Background and Summary, we would like to suggest that the priorities for the Highland Park Spray Park design be water conservation, water safety, exceptional water play, and integrated sustainable design unique to Highland Park. With this as a framework, we would like to see the design incorporate a combination of high and low-flow spray nozzles along with a water treatment recirculation system using sand filtration, chlorine, and ultra-violet treatment to kill bacteria. Ideally, the water treatment system could be located in a below grade vault accessible through hatches with no obstructive and unsightly structures aboveground. Spray parks are relatively new in the field of landscape architecture and to Seattle Parks; this project presents an opportunity to create the design language that can be used to address the archetype. One of the biggest design challenges we foresee is creating a spray park design that remains viable in the winter months when the water activation is not in use. This unique challenge creates exciting opportunities for the use of planted material, seat walls, topography, or countless other landscape solutions. We would like to challenge the design team to create an award winning design, and the Opportunity Fund is the only means for our low income neighborhood to supply them with the resources to allow for the project to be built accordingly.

Unique opportunity
The Highland Park Spray Park project is already in the works, the design team has been chosen and budgets are being assessed- it is absolutely a time sensitive opportunity. It has come to our attention as a community that this spray park, of the three on the boards in Seattle right now, has the least amount of dollars allocated to it. We do not want to be the “spray park that could have been,” rather we prefer that the Highland Park Spray Park is a design that is distinctive to Highland Park, one that demonstrates state of the art technology for water use and re-use, is a model of sustainable practices, and presents remarkable play opportunities for our children. This promising opportunity will slip away if more funds are not directed toward the project soon.

The Highland Park Spray Park is in the heart of the Highland Park Neighborhood in Southwest Seattle- a typically underserved community in the city. The park itself is 6.4 acres, is accessible to the general public, and is within walking distance to the Highland Park/Westwood Village urban center. The closed wading pool during summer of 2009 was a poignant reminder for our community of how easy it has been for the city to disregard this Seattle neighborhood. The average home costs $275,000 in our neighborhood, compared to the Seattle average of $380,000. Our community is comprised of some of the cheapest stand of houses left in the city, and we have seen a lot of growth- particularly with new and young families moving here.

Sustainable principles
One of Seattle’s biggest environmental challenges is high water use during its summertime drought. Using a water treatment recirculation system as opposed to the flow-to-drain system for the spray park is the most environmentally responsible answer for this climate. The difference is astounding- for an average spray park, it is a matter of using 1,000 gallons of water a day versus 132,000; that adds up to a difference of over 12.8 million extra gallons of water a year being used for the flow-to-drain system. The water savings is incredible- but sustainability doesn’t just have to do with the environment. It also needs to take into account the cost effectiveness of the project- as this determines the park’s long term maintenance and ultimate viability. The annual cost to run a recirculation system is less than half of a flow-to-drain system’s cost. Although the construction cost of a flow-to-drain system is a little cheaper, the 20 year life cycle cost is 37% higher than a recirculation system. It is exactly this long view that we would like for this project to take into consideration so that we will have an operating spray park for years to come.
It is also our hope that the task of creating an integrated sustainable design means the design team will employ the liberal use of trees and shrubs, and amend the soil accordingly for proper drainage and plant establishment. Addressing soil health and planting trees and shrubs contributes immensely to the overall health of our urban environment through enhancing air, soil, and water quality, and providing for urban wildlife and ecology.

The project is currently severely underfunded with $100,000 allocated for the new spray park. We estimate that the project could use an extra $500,000-$600,000 to guarantee adequate water conservation, water safety, exceptional water play, and integrated sustainable design unique to Highland Park.

Again, groups (and individuals) who want to show support – no strings attached, no money involved – should e-mail Carolyn at carolynstauffer@gmail.com – ASAP. We’ll continue to keep you up to date on the spray-park progress, both through this application and through the official Parks planning that’s under way.

12 Replies to "Excited about a West Seattle spray park? Help pump up the plan"

  • sam January 26, 2010 (9:43 pm)

    great idea ! I will send my support !!

  • Michelle January 26, 2010 (9:55 pm)

    I love the idea too! What a great way to enjoy the hot summer with the kids. Better than a wading pool (safer, uses less water). It has my support and I think Highland Park neighborhood would be a great place to put it.

  • thebest January 26, 2010 (10:39 pm)

    Go Carolyn! She is in my PEPS group – great advocate. Thanks for running with this!

  • Dano January 26, 2010 (11:04 pm)

    Um…. What’s a “Spray park?”…. I mean, I can guess, sort of…… but really, what is it?

  • Westside J. January 27, 2010 (2:51 am)

    I think it’s a cool idea, and it’s great to have variety when it’s comes to fun stuff to do with our kids on a hot summer day. However, and I’m sure I’ll be in the minority here, while techincally a spray park will be safer from it terms of drowning danger, it will encourage kids to run and fall and skin knees and bump heads.. all those other joys that come with growing up.

    I hope that we don’t end up replacing all the area wading pools with spray parks. Safer is always a good thing, but safer is not always accomplished by creating less dangerous alternatives.. Myself, as well as millions of people who’s parents watched them play at the wading pool turned out just fine..
    I guess what I’m trying to say is, I’m all for new parks and new fun things to do with our kids, I just hope we don’t start scape-goating the old favorites because they are deemed “unsafe” for the next generation.. Water parks or otherwise. If we dumb down everything in the world, we run the risk of our kids growing up dumbed down. Anyway, see you at the spray park!

  • spray parks AND wading pools January 27, 2010 (8:34 am)

    in the drafted letter, I didn’t see anything that suggested that this was being proposed because wading pools aren’t safe. it sounds like it would be a sustainable and creative alternative to wading pools.

    on the other hand, if people weren’t so litigious and out to make a quick buck, maybe the Parks department wouldn’t have to ‘dumb down’ everything in the world.

  • waman January 27, 2010 (8:57 am)

    This pool would be perfect for a radio controlled car track! It would be fun to go down to the park & see people racing cars in the empty pool!

  • Beaudoin January 27, 2010 (1:27 pm)

    Many (not all) of Park’s wading pools are being replaced, primarily due to costs associated with having to staff each one (lifeguard). Water use is also a factor. But make no mistake about it, kids love these things. Plus, it’ll be nice to have a variety of water play around the City. Also note that the currently proposed spraypark is dramatically underfunded and it’ll be a shame if one gets built in a half-baked way.

  • Carolyn Stauffer January 27, 2010 (2:29 pm)

    I have since clarified that the construction budget currently allocated for the project is a just under $130,000- not the $100,000 that I wrote in this draft letter. Still, though, seriously underfunded…
    Westside J, please see comments by Beaudoin- the problem with the wading pool isn’t so much safety as costs associated with staffing and high water use.

  • Westside J. January 27, 2010 (6:57 pm)

    That is a completely understandable reason.. I’m glad it’s more a budget thing. Honestly a spray park sounds more exciting from my perspective anyway. :)

  • Kay K January 28, 2010 (4:49 pm)

    Thank you so much for identifying this great use of the opportunity funds in our neighborhood. We support it 100%!!

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