St Marys is a city of 8,300 in western Ohio and home to St Marys Intermediate School, where four years ago, an unassuming fourth-grade assignment grew into much, much more. Students in Kristy Guy's class were tasked with writing a letter to state and local officials about a particular government issue or law. A consensus soon emerged among the students, and they petitioned the city council en masse for a Splashpad®.
Moved by the students' enthusiasm, St Marys officials met with students to examine the possibility of making their proposal a reality. With the assistance of state representative Craig Riedel, the city secured a $100,000 state grant, and private donors were approached to help fund the project. Despite roadblocks along the way, the students persisted, and a new Splashpad became reality in 2020.
The City retained the services of Brandstetter Carroll Inc. to develop plans for the new aquatic play amenity. The firm then turned to Vortex Aquatic Structures International, with whom it shares a design philosophy: to create meaningful projects that enhance quality of life in the communities where they operate.
While St Marys does have a nearby state park, which features a campground, pool and Splashpad, project leaders thought it would be beneficial to locate the new installation closer to the downtown core, since it sees fairly heavy foot traffic, particularly on weekends when families are out and about.
High Street Park provided an optimal site: one area of the park featured a shelter house at the trailhead of the Miami Canal walk/bike path, but it was thought that the surrounding space could be put to better use. A playground had been considered, but the calls from Ms. Guy's students soon had the plans set on a Splashpad®. A total footprint of 2,000 sq. ft. was set aside for the project.
The city leveraged the purchasing power of BuyBoard, a cooperative program, to expedite the process and help curtail procurement costs.
The students had an active voice in the design and feature selection process: they wanted interactivity, and lots of it. Vortex's award-winning Explora collection fit the bill perfectly. With features that encourage kids to move, push, pull, and spin elements to influence how water behaves, it provides a sense of wonder and fun that engages everyone from toddlers to tweens in active play. The wide range of dynamic elements has features and triggers set at various heights to make sure all users can get hands on, no matter their age or ability.
The bold color scheme of Explora elements reflects the promise of high-energy fun while also lending the Splashpad a streamlined, cohesive look. To complete the play experience, designers added the textured stepping stones of Water Journey™ Hop, which demonstrate cause and effect by varying the intensity of ground sprays depending on the weight applied to the stones. The result is a zero-depth environment where safe and fun discovery awaits at every turn, for high-value solo and group play.
On June 15, 2020, some four years after the original class assignment, a ribbon-cutting ceremony was held to inaugurate the Splashpad in front of the donors, city officials, and now seventh-grade students that made it all happen. The facility has met every expectation, drawing praise from users and the city alike. The park has been experiencing high attendance levels, with residents enjoying the improved trailhead area as a great community destination. It has also driven more foot traffic to local businesses.
Mayor Pat McGowan was quick to praise the Splashpad. "These kids have had so much of their summer taken away from them due to COVID. This project has been a wonderful addition to the community and lets the kids finally let their hair down."
What began as an exercise in community involvement has blossomed into an invaluable gift the children of St Marys will be able to enjoy for years to come.