Bad timing for splash pad break

Published 9:19 am Friday, July 14, 2017

The breakdown of the splash pad at the city’s waterfront could not have come at a worse time.

As the hottest weather of the year thus far has settled in for a weekend visit, the splash pad sits very empty and very dry.

In spite of the best efforts of city crews, lack of replacement parts and poor design work have led to this latest breakdown. Unfortunately, it is not the first, and by the sounds of the city’s recreation director, it might not be the last.

Director Joe Graves Thursday, while chasing down more parts for more fixes, said from day one the splash pad has been a “nightmare” as far as maintenance because of the way it was designed and originally constructed.

“There were a lot of shortcuts taken with the splash pad when it was first built that have been devastating on maintenance and devastating on the whole workings of the splash pad,” Graves said.

And it does not sound that improvements and permanent fixes are a possibility for the splash pad.

“The way [the splash pad’s pipes] are set up, you’ve got a spaghetti bowl of pipes,” Graves said. “If the one on the bottom breaks, you’ve got to cut all of them to get to the bottom and then fix them all. We’ve had to do that numerous times.”

As part of an overall strategic plan put together by the city in the late 1990s, the splash pad and the Catfish Row Art Park have been a tremendous asset to the city.

It has provided a place for children — and adults — to get outside and enjoy themselves. It has brought people to downtown and was a catalyst for other  development in downtown.

But that was nearly two decades ago.

Upgrades are needed, additions made, upkeep planned and at times — replacement planned.

In their first meeting, the new Board of Mayor and Aldermen appointed a riverfront redevelopment committee, to find solutions to many of the problems facing the city’s waterfront and look for ways to enhance the visitor and resident experience.

If redevelopment plans for the city’s splash pad and park are not at the top of the agenda for the group’s initial meeting, it should be now.