Help Highland Park’s spray-park plan make a splash!

(2009 WSB photo of Highland Park’s wading pool, which hasn’t been open since 2008)
Almost two years after the plan to convert Highland Park’s wading pool to a spray park first surfaced, it’s getting closer to construction: A public meeting has just been announced for May 25th. The Parks and Green Spaces Levy allotted the bare minimum to convert the pool, $200,000; then Carolyn Stauffer, now co-chair of Highland Park Action Committee, put together a plan to pitch for more money from the levy’s Opportunity Fund, and an additional $580,000 has been finalized. Now, it’s time to talk about what features the spray park – planned for the pool’s current “footprint” – will include. The meeting is set for 7:15 pm May 25th at Highland Park Improvement Club (12th/Holden).

17 Replies to "Help Highland Park's spray-park plan make a splash!"

  • cjboffoli May 6, 2011 (6:02 pm)

    Wow. Almost $800,000?! I’d love to see how that breaks down. Good thing the City is not in the middle of a budget crisis.

    • WSB May 6, 2011 (6:18 pm)

      It’s levy money that whether you agree with the purpose or not, was allocated by the voters to be spent expressly for projects like this. Approved in 2008, before everything went cattywhompers. Would take a vote of the people, as I understand it, to say “oh wait, we can spend that money on something besides parks projects.” This one also, again whether you believe it’s worth it or not, is represented as more water-saving and cost-saving ultimately because a spray park doesn’t require an attendant; a wading pool does, and the recirculating water apparently has less evaporation – TR

  • Highland Park Waders May 6, 2011 (8:33 pm)

    This news is awesome, we hope construction starts soon! The kiddos and I have been missing our neighborhood wading pool.

  • Yardvark May 6, 2011 (11:44 pm)

    Sounds like a lot of hard work has paid off and the park will definitely be enjoyed by the community once it’s finished.

    But $800,000 seems kinda ridiculous. I figure we coulda started a number of parks for that. Bought back more land. Planted more gardens.

    That said, I’m sure the kids will like it! Way to fight for it, I guess.

  • Pete May 7, 2011 (11:26 am)

    When you look at the economics of spending this money on the spray park as it is proposed now as opposed to the original propositon in the long run spending this money now represents a huge cost savings in the years to come just based upon the amount of water savings that will be realized.

  • Carolyn Stauffer May 7, 2011 (12:55 pm)

    I’ve got a detailed budget that was submitted with the Opportunity Fund application- post your email if you’d like me to send it to you to see how it breaks down… it’s simply the short term cost of building these things in a responsible manner, which- as Pete noted, pays off big time in the long term: saving 19,400 gallons of water a day, or 2.2 million gallons a year – that’s 98% less water than the originally planned system would dump down the drain, it would save over half the annual cost of running the spraypark, reduce the 20 year life cycle clost by 63%, and manage waste water from the spraypark on-site, reducing sewer fees substantially and allowing for groundwater recharge. These long term savings make an initial investmet of $800,000 look like a pretty good deal for citizens of Seattle.

  • foy boy May 7, 2011 (1:39 pm)

    I would bet if the city put down the fact that they were going to spend more then half a million dallar on a fontain in a kidies pool people might have voted alittle different. If the kids want to play with water let them play under the yard sprinkler. this will also water the yard. Kill to birds with one stone.

  • cjboffoli May 7, 2011 (2:26 pm)

    I understand the logic that an investment now will help us realize a cost savings (and environmental benefit) in the future. Put that way it seems like a no-brainer, right?
    But to me that reads like somewhat fallacious logic. For instance: “Each one of these new $200 million fighter jets will actually SAVE taxpayer money as we won’t have to keep flying the old fighter jets that are expensive to operate.” Or “This new $1 billion SeaTac runway will save money in the form of fewer delays and increased commerce.” True, but the explantation fails to explain why on fighter costs that much or why a mile and a half of concrete costs a billion dollars.
    The answer overlooks the question of WHY something costs as much as it does in the first place, versus what something comparable would cost in the private sector.
    Considering that the cost for a private individual to install an Olympic-sized swimming pool is about $250,000, seeing the $800,000 figure reported in summary without any detail is puzzling.
    Carolyn, I’d love to see the breakdown. Thank you in advance. cjboffoli (at)

    PS: Hopefully it goes without saying that my curiosity over the cost is not intended to criticize your work and activism for this cause.

  • Cheryl May 7, 2011 (2:52 pm)

    Like @cjboffoli , I wonder how a private Olympic-sized in ground swimming pool can cost only $250K, and a typical backyard swimming pool would cost a LOT less than that, but a spray park costs over $800K? There is some seriously faulty logic in that.
    I have NEVER understood why government funded projects always cost thousands (or even millions) of dollars more than they would cost in the private sector. Reeks of fleecing the taxpayers and gross mismanagement of money to me.
    I do not however question the merit of having a spray park in West Seattle, especially if the levy money was already voted on and approved. I merely question the actual cost/s of such projects.

  • Carolyn Stauffer May 7, 2011 (3:51 pm)

    I will send it right away. Do keep in mind that, relative to your examples of a fighter jet or an airport runway- that a spraypark contributes a lot to our society in terms of child and community development, an opportunity that will be a welcome addition to Highland Park. All of the wading pools in Seattle are meant to be converted to sprayparks over time, this is one of the first three projects for Seattle Parks to build. It is not a question of spraypark or no spraypark, rather it is a matter of setting the right precedent (long term savings) for the rest of the spraypark conversions for the city. I hope to see you at the meeting on the 25th to discuss any further concerns you have with the Parks Department.

  • cjboffoli May 7, 2011 (6:34 pm)

    ..and fighter jets help us defend our country and a third runway at Seatac gets us where we’re going faster. Again, beside the point in regard to the joy this spray park will bring to the kiddos of Highland Park. My point was understanding the cost.
    Thank you Carolyn for providing me with the well-written Opportunity Fund application. A couple of questions: Did you have to compile those figures or did the Parks Department assemble them? And do you know how many GC’s bid for the job?
    Cheryl: I share your concerns. While it can be interesting to drill down on things like this perhaps suspecting that high figures can be chalked up to government waste, sometimes it is not the full story. A few years back I was assigned by the WSB to cover a ribbon cutting at the Orchard Street Ravine ( That project received a fair amount of criticism for cost over-runs and delays. However, when talking to some of the people involved I was told that the objections of one neighbor were what caused a series of delays. That neighbor apparently required expensive additional testing and reports that added thousands of dollars and months to the process. Sometimes we citizens are responsible for throwing the wrench in the bureaucratic machine.

  • Carolyn Stauffer May 7, 2011 (8:23 pm)

    I had the design team’s help to create the budget for the application, they have plenty of experience with spraypark construction. And it’ll be a public bid, so no telling how many GC’s will bid, but the lowest bidder wins. Seattle Parks will be at the meeting to answer more specific questions about the bidding process.

  • Lorelee May 7, 2011 (9:57 pm)

    Features such as this build community and keep our kiddos busy with something otherthan video games! This is exactly what I want my tax dollars spent on!

  • polkadot May 9, 2011 (1:15 am)

    I’ll go down there and spray the kids with a hose every single day for 20 bucks…

  • Papa May 9, 2011 (8:39 am)

    800K is just crazy! I also find it paricularly interesting that I live across the street from this park and this is the first I have heard of this project. Yes, I am well informed and do care about my neighborhood so don’t go there.

  • AIDM May 25, 2011 (12:06 pm)

    This is really great news! Its nice to see that this levy money is being put to something that the community can use for years to come. My vote is for a simple flat spray feature rather than the playground type that is in Crossroads/Bellevue. Have ever seen the wonderful spray fountain in downtown Olympia? It is very simple and the kids go absolutely crazy for it.

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