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Water playground gets off ground

IRONTON — The Friends of Ironton are hoping three times is a charm for their proposed water SprayGround.

Twice delayed due to fundraising efforts and utility clearances, members of the civic organization revealed this week their intention to open its 21st century water playground on May 31, 2010 immediately following the Ironton-Lawrence County Memorial Day Parade.

The announcement, made at a quiet groundbreaking on Oct. 11, puts into place one of the largest recreation projects Ironton has seen in several years.

When complete, the SprayGround will be located on what is now a vacant 1,200-square-foot parcel at the corner of Second and Vernon streets.

The Friends of Ironton had initially hoped to have the SprayGround completed for the Fourth of July holiday this year, but had to alter those plans in May due to a lack of funds, changes in design and construction issues with American Electric Power. The volunteer group then hoped for a mid-August opening which was also scraped.

Friends of Ironton Co-Founder Rick Jansen said the delays while unfortunate, made the project even stronger in the long run.

“We are disappointed we didn’t get the park done this summer, but the improvements to the design will be worth the wait. We intend to open the park to the public immediately after the Memorial Day Parade in 2010,” Jansen said.

Initially estimated to cost around $125,000, funding for the water playground had been slow going during the quarter of 2009 with only $8,000 raised.

Since then, aided by a memorial brick fundraising campaign and grants, the group felt they had enough of a financial foothold to establish a groundbreaking and opening date again.

The sponsored bricks will be placed in prominent locations throughout Friends Park — the name the parcel will be called when complete.

“A special thanks needs to go out to Randy Kelley, Ralph Kline and Bob Cleary for all the help they gave the board of the Friends Of Ironton with the design of the park,” Jansen said. “Dave Milem has agreed to work with the Friends of Ironton board during the actual construction of the park, which the board is very happy about.”

No city tax dollars are being used for the construction and initial operation of the SprayGround.

When complete, the Friends of Ironton are anticipated to deed the SprayGround to the city of Ironton under the umbrella of its recreation department.

Annual maintenance costs are expected to be only $3,000 which includes both the water and electricity needed to operate the SprayGround.

SprayGrounds are playgrounds with water features and are sometimes referred to as aquatic playgrounds, splash pads, water playgrounds or water play areas.

They are designed to be safe and unique play areas where water is sprayed from structures or ground sprays and then drained away before it can accumulate.

Unlike a pool, they create an environment that children of all ages and abilities can enter with equal enthusiasm.

SprayGrounds are becoming more and more popular with cities as they have the ability to provide water at a vastly lower cost than a traditional pool with little wasted water.

Plus, the layout and spray schedule can be changed year to year for different variations.

With no standing water, even very small children can play freely. The proposed SprayGround has a zero-depth entry on a “poured-in-place” textured concrete surface and is ADA accessible.

The facility will use re-circulated, chemically treated water from a 3,000-gallon reservoir located on site.

The park will also have grassy areas for children and families, flagpoles and a drinking fountain.

Jansen said a change to the design since its initial drafting will have the removal of a proposed storage building and having that replaced by a 10-foot by 16-foot pavilion.

The SprayGround isn’t for everyone. Dogs aren’t welcome in the area because they can create unwanted mess or damage some of the facilities. Everyone else is invited — but the Spray Ground is mostly geared to children.

It will be free of charge and open during daylight hours.

An innovative feature of the proposed SprayGround is the use of motion sensors to activate the water and that the facility will contain a computer-controlled lightning strike service that will shut down the water when lightning is at least seven miles away.

Ironton has been without a public swimming pool for several years when Ironton Municipal Pool closed because of its constant structural problems.