Aiken County pool could become splash pad

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AIKEN --- To splash or swim?

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Parker Raycroft, 3, of Augusta, plays in the water at Charles H. Evans Community Center's splash pad on Highland Avenue.  Annette M. Drowlette/Staff
Annette M. Drowlette/Staff
Parker Raycroft, 3, of Augusta, plays in the water at Charles H. Evans Community Center's splash pad on Highland Avenue.

That's the question in Aiken County as officials consider whether to convert the public pool at the county recreation center on Jefferson Davis Highway into a splash pad design.

"The kids love these things," said Assistant County Administrator Todd Glover, adding at a recent council committee meeting that when Augusta converted one of its public pools to a splash pad "their numbers just exploded."

Some county council members are concerned that converting the pool into a splash pad could eliminate swimming lessons. However, they were recently told that splash pads are often very popular and can be safer than pools because they are designed with zero water depth, reducing drowning risks. Splash pads were described at the committee meeting as similar to a playground that incorporates water features.

County officials say about $500,000 in sales tax money is available for improvements at the center so now is a good time to decide whether the pool should be converted.

Not everyone, though, favors a change. Chris Burckhalter, a lifeguard at the Aiken County Recreation Center pool, said converting the pool would put him out of a job by next summer.

"I would definitely be in favor of keeping the pool," he said, adding that he feels more people would use the pool if the center were renovated.

On a recent Tuesday, eight children were swimming at the pool. Mr. Burckhalter said that's an average number. He also said the number of those taking swimming lessons there also has decreased through the years, citing the center's deteriorating condition.

Joanie Smith, Augusta's aquatics division manager, said the transition of an old public pool on Highland Avenue into a splash pad has proven successful.

The Augusta splash pad was initially opened for a couple of weekends in September and again made available in May and is to stay open through this September.

Ms. Smith said the splash pad often has children lined up waiting to get in.

"It's been really good," she said of the demand. "We've had a great response."

The splash pad on Highland Avenue facility is for children 12 and younger and is open from 1 to 6 p.m. daily. She said there is a $1.50 charge per child, adding that a building at the site also can be rented.

It costs $2 per person to use the Aiken County pool.

Aleatha Ezra, a spokeswoman for the World Waterpark Association, said that she didn't have specific numbers but that in general it does seem splash pads are becoming more popular as municipal recreational offerings.

"As pools have gotten older and therefore they're more expensive to actually renovate than just replace, there has certainly been a trend toward cities introducing things like spray parks because of the interactivity nature of them and the fact that they have a different set of maintenance needs and they certainly are more modern. So there definitely is a trend toward it," she said.

Reach Preston Sparks at (803) 648-1395, ext. 110 or


Joanie Smith, Augusta's aquatics division manager, said so far this year Richmond County has collected $12,248 in revenue from the splash pad and renting of the building, and there have been 6,480 participants.

"We've had as many people at the splash pad as all of our summer pools combined," she said. "So it's just been very popular."

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Little Lamb
Little Lamb 07/30/09 - 09:34 am
You've got a crazed South

You've got a crazed South Carolina legislator getting ready to introduce a bill at the next session REQUIRING all South Carolina public schools to provide free swimming lessons to all students; and here they are thinking about closing a public pool. Doesn't add up.

ListenAndLearn 07/30/09 - 03:38 pm
I don't know if Requiring ALL

I don't know if Requiring ALL schools to have swimming classes is the right answer. I do know, however, that in FL it's a necessity. Different demographics/geographics. How soon will the drowning rates go up as a result of splash pads? All I'm hearing in this article is money, money money. Lots of kids loving splash pads & most of them can't swim. Sounds like an awful lot of parents making the wrong decision for their kids & the government is co-dependent or vice versa.

The Knave
The Knave 07/30/09 - 05:08 pm
The trend for the crumbling

The trend for the crumbling Republic and the backwardness of South Carolina (last or near-last in most every category of quality of life measures) is evident from this proposal. "Splash pads" are pure entertainment -- no life-skills to be learned there. Pools are a place to learn a valuable, perhaps even life-preserving, skill. They also provide an introduction to competitive swimming as a very healthy sport. And, they provide a venue for maintaining one's health. So, the solution to the neglected pool situation -- close it down, and provide some mind-numbing entertainment for the dumbed-down citizenry. Citizens of Aiken are doomed to fate which they richly deserve.

ListenAndLearn 07/30/09 - 05:52 pm
Knave, that was harsh. Me

Knave, that was harsh. Me thinks Aiken might rethink this. I hope they do. Other than that, right on the mark.

The Ode
The Ode 07/31/09 - 11:39 am
This would be a stupid idea.

This would be a stupid idea. Renovate the pool as needed. If they think they need splash park then pour a concrete pad and put up some sprinklers and a slip n slide. You don't need $500k to do that.

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