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Constructing safe water play parks that offer universal accessibility

By Francine Gall

A custom filtration system was installed, along with a chemical controller and ultraviolet (UV) light sanitizer, at the Parkdale Splash Pad in Belleville, Ont.

Splash pads transform imagination into new dimensions by delivering adventure, visual excitement, and creative fun for children of all ages. In fact, these features are becoming one of the most popular ways to cool off on a hot summer day. They can be found at local neighbourhood parks, community centres, and family campgrounds. Splash pads are everywhere and their popularity can be attributed to the fact they are the safest water play option, which also offer universal accessibility. Children of all ages can get hours of enjoyment out of spray grounds. Therefore, the goal of any builder is to ensure each splash pad is designed and built to the highest standards of safety and longevity.

Construction considerations

There are several construction considerations that need to be made when installing a splash pad. The most important is ensuring all the water drains appropriately. If it does not, it can become a safety concern.

Therefore, the concrete pad should slope so it drains properly without leaving any standing water—even 25.4 mm (1 in.) of water is considered a drowning hazard. Further, the concrete finish has to be just right, as children of all ages will be running barefoot on the pad. There is a fine line between the finish being non-slip, but also not too abrasive on the feet of bathers.

The underground plumbing used for splash pad construction is typically schedule 40 or 80 polyvinyl chloride (PVC), or high density polyethylene (HPDE). All underground plumbing should drain via gravity to a pit. Operators appreciate a splash pad that is easy to drain when it comes to routine maintenance and/or winterization.

It is also important for the splash pad to be designed with an appropriate overspray zone so the surrounding landscape is not impacted. This should take into account wind patterns in the area for the installation and orientation of water toys.

All splash pads also require electrical grounding. The rebar, water features, and any other metal components must be grounded for the safety of patrons. The local electrical authority will review the entire electrical installation—from grounding to the control system.

There are various types of splash pad systems and toys available in the marketplace; therefore, it is important to carefully assess what will work for the particular project at hand.

Some wonder how splash pads work, while others wonder what the differences are between the many water play parks installed in various neighbourhoods and/or local community centres. There are various types of splash pad systems and toys available in the marketplace; therefore, it is important to carefully assess what will work for the particular project at hand.

Starting with the basics

Where does the water come from? There are two different types of splash pad systems which are often referred to as ‘drain to waste’ or ‘recirculating’ systems. A drain-to-waste splash pad does exactly that; water is turned on and sprays out of the water toys in a sequence, and drains away to the sewer system—similar to turning a tap on in a home. These systems are common in Canada where water is a surplus.

Recirculating splash pads, considered more environment friendly, are more common in areas where water supply is at a premium (e.g. southern and western regions of the U.S.).

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