Makin’ a Splash
Beach Coast Splash Pads
By Patti Eddington
Go ahead. Step onto a splash pad and just try not to drift back to those
childhood days of running through the front lawn sprinkler on a sunny day.
Only this, well, this is far better.
It’s summertime once again and that joyful noise you’ll hear carried along on balmy Beach Coast breezes is the delight of youngsters -- and quite possibly their parents -- as they revel in the plethora of splash pads dotting our Indiana and Michigan lakeshore communities.
From South Bend to New Buffalo, Michigan City to Valparaiso, St. John to Highland, it seems splash pads are popping up everywhere these days.
New Kid on the Block
Hammond is the latest community to jump on the splash pad bandwagon, and it was a pretty major jump. The new Water Gardens Aquatic Play Center on the shores of Wolf Lake is part of a $35 million economic redevelopment project for the City of Hammond.*
The Center has a capacity of 300 people and only officially opened in late May but had a trial run in the 2011 season. If last summer’s test crowds are any indication, it will be a huge attraction in 2012, according to Jill Gajewski, Wolf Lake Coordinator for the Hammond Port Authority.
“It was very popular,” Gajewski says. “We heard a lot of people talking about it.”
Like so many trends, splash pads apparently trace their watery roots to California where youngsters have been splattering about since at least the late 1990s.
What’s the Hubbub?
The reasons for the immense popularity are myriad:
• Unlike with swimming or wading pools, there is no standing water on a splash pad, so the risks to little ones are minimized.
• The potential for exercise skyrockets and proponents adore the potential for free-play, and the boost for motor skills and coordination.
• Municipalities love splash pads because they are less costly to maintain than swimming and wading pools.
• Mother Nature is a winner, also. Splash pads conserve resources, earning the communities which install them kudos for social responsibility.
• The cost for enjoying a splash pad afternoon is generally very nominal and many are free to area residents.
• Lastly, but perhaps most importantly, is the all-out fun factor. Splash pad designs are colorful and creative; the new Hammond facility features a “garden” theme allowing the little ones to be drenched by outsized flowers and leaves.
Fun for All Ages
Some local pads also welcome adult fun-seekers and the new Aquatic Play Center at Wolf Lake will also be available to rent for private parties for adults in the evenings.
For kids or adults, the popularity of splash pads seems to increase each year and the variety of these water features is as diverse as the communities they call home.
Here are just a few Beach Coast sites. If you wonder if your own or a nearby town has a splash pad, the first place to check is the Parks and Recreation Department.
Water Gardens Aquatic Play Center
South Bend Splash Pads
South Bend, IN
Central Park Plaza Splash Pad
New Buffalo Township Memorial Park Splash Pad
New Buffalo, MI
Wicker Memorial Park Splash Pad
Oasis Splash Park
Michigan City, IN
St. John Splash Pads
St. John, IN
Patti Eddington is a freelance journalist from Michigan who has a giddy interest in not only the visual, culinary and performing arts, but the art of living a Beach Coast lifestyle.