In keeping with supporting the idea of including a Splash Pad in our recreation and park amenities in North Grenville, because I truly believe we need more things in our community for your children and families, I made a submission to the North Grenville Council asking them to give consideration to a Splash Pad in the 2013 Budget. Well imagine my surprise when I received notification just a few days before the Budget Committee meeting that I had been added to the agenda to address my submission! What follows is the presentation that I prepared and presented, with some help from another parent in collecting the background information. Though the presentation went well, as expected it was not given any serious consideration. Realistically this was more about getting the issues on the "radar" of the Council. The message that I received from the comments made was to come back with some real money to back the plan, such as corporate sponsorship or service club support. So, the next phase begins! Any volunteers to take up the cause?
I have been a resident of North Grenville since 2003, moving here when my own children were quite young. I am currently the owner and operator of a local daycare, and also work as a consultant in the childcare field. I have worked with children in a number of capacities, including numerous volunteer and professional roles for over 20 years. I recently made a submission to the Council for consideration for the 2013 Budget. My submission was in support of a recreational Splash Pad for our community, and I am delighted to be here this evening to share more information on why I think this is a valuable addition to our community.
Splash Pads provide a very safe and interactive play space for children of all ages, but are particularly engaging and useful for children under the age of three, in comparison to conventional recreational equipment found in parks and playgrounds. Current best practices in the field of early childhood education, when planning recreational and outdoor activities, focus on open ended play and more natural play-scapes. While at first glance a splash pad may not seem to fit that criteria, I would like to point out that splash pads are also often referred to as urban beaches – in a way we can think of it as a manufactured beach – and I think many of us can recall playing for hours in sand and water while enjoying a day at the beach when we were children. The advantage here is that we can provide some of those same play experiences in a very safe setting, for example drowning would not be the focus of the risk management plan since there is no standing water in the design, fall zones are not an issue as they are in other playground features. In addition, I wrote a blog post this summer, which I submitted for your consideration already, that highlighted some of the open-ended play experiences we found at a splash pad in Ottawa this summer, and all of the things the children “learned” from that experience. The engagement of so many different parts of the brain and body is quite different than the conventional recreational equipment you are accustomed to thinking of, such as swings and slides, which are almost always one dimensional play experiences, and are not always suited for the youngest members of our community.
I understand that a Splash Pad is part of the overall development plan for eQuinelle, but it is unclear what the timeline for completion of that project will be. I presume the developer can withhold completing that part of the project until a certain percentage of the community is built and sold? In addition, while I fully support recreational and green spaces in individual neighbourhoods, I do not feel that this Splash Pad alone best serves the needs of the North Grenville community, including the residents of eQuinelle. My concern is that compact nature of the eQuinelle development, including the narrow lots and roadways, will make the Splash Pad wonderful for neighbourhood residents to walk to, but quite a traffic nightmare when everyone else in North Grenville drives there and tries to park; and I can assure you that it would be a heavily used play space! By creating a situation where people are driving into a neighbourhood that cannot handle this type of traffic congestion, we are reducing the livability of that neighbourhood, belying the intention of adding this space to the development plan. By creating a Splash Pad in a more centralized location, complete with adequate parking, we will not create dangerous traffic chaos within the eQuinelle neighbourhood, and will additionally be providing valuable play space to children from all parts of North Grenville and our surrounding communities. The additional benefit to our local businesses of having another amenity which attracts potential customers to a central location, such as the downtown core, I’m sure would be welcomed by those businesses as well.
I mention surrounding communities, because there is some precedent for asking surrounding communities for financial support for such a project. I refer you to an article about a similar project in Perth where they are hoping to have a cost-sharing agreement with the neighbouring municipalities Tay Valley and Drummond-North Elmsley. Which brings me to the issue of cost. A cursory investigation of costs, would suggest that a pad of about 2000 sq ft. which would include 4 above ground features and 30 ground sprays would be the type of installation for a community of our size. The costs vary significantly for the initial installation, depending largely on the type of water system used. The longevity of such a recreational feature is quite good, and overall maintenance is reasonably low, again depending somewhat on the water system used. Electrical costs are very low (due to the use of sensors), the main month to month expense is related to water use, water treatment, and filtration systems. Water use costs in Ottawa work out to something in the range of $50-75 per month for usage. One company I spoke to warranties their above ground stainless steel components for 10 years, so it would be reasonable to extrapolate from that many years would go by before any replacement or significant maintenance would be required. Overall cost would likely be in the $120-140,000 range, which works out to approximately $8 to $10 per resident for the initial installation, or a less than a $1 per person per year over the next ten years based on the current population.
While my own children are much too old to be the target “clients” of this type of project, I do know that there are many, many young families, and also daycare providers, like myself, who would love to have the use of such an amenity. Additionally, I know that North Grenville Council has long been positioning itself as the next bedroom community of Ottawa, perhaps hoping to be the next Kanata - but better! Ice rinks, beautiful new library, modernized hospital, and better shopping all make our community attractive to young families, adding a splash pad such as this to our core recreational amenities would be an additional attractive feature for potential new residents. New residents increase our tax base which benefits each and every one of us.
I know for myself when I moved to Kemptville, I found very few things I could do with my then almost 3 year old. While some things are better, such as improved library access, some things are not, such as reduced hours at the Ontario Early Years Centre – making it impossible for most working parents of young children to ever access their programming. A Splash Pad is very inclusive to all types of families: there is no cost to use as it is not a “pay as you go” amenity like an ice rink or swimming pool, and can be enjoyed equally by parents who work Monday to Friday, and those that do not work conventional hours such as shift workers. Realistically it is an amenity that has very few barriers to enjoyment and usage – it is suitable for children of all ages, including the very young, it is easily made handicap accessible, and hours of availability, and user fees are not factors preventing participation. As someone who works a lot with young families, I love the way that a Splash Pad can bring a community together, reducing isolation for young parents and caregivers, and allowing children the opportunity to play outside. This is healthy physically, mentally and socially - for adults and children alike!
I thank-you very much for your time and consideration, and I invite your further questions regarding the educational benefits of a Splash Pad, or with respect to the cost, installation and maintenance issues. Additionally I would like to point out that petition in support of this initiative has been available and has collected over 200 signatures online from people in and around North Grenville in support of a Splash Pad as part of our recreational infrastructure. There are several people who have made very valid comments on the petition forum which you can view online.