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Custom shipwreck splash pad design captures community spirit

By Kent Walker

The focal point of the splash pad is a ‘ship-wrecked’ scene appearing to emerge directly out of the adjacent ocean.
The focal point of the splash pad is a ‘ship-wrecked’ scene appearing to emerge directly out of the adjacent ocean.

Windjammer Park is an 11.5-ha (28.5-acre) waterfront park in the picturesque town of Oak Harbor on Whidbey Island, Washington State, situated on the shores of the Puget Sound with beautiful vistas of surrounding mountains and ocean. The park recently underwent a complete renovation including the addition of an iconic, custom-designed splash pad play area.

The aquatic attraction was part of a larger waterfront reconstruction project, which included the redesign of the adjacent Oak Harbor Wastewater Treatment Facility. Water Odyssey worked closely with consultants at Northwest Playground Equipment and Greenworks Landscape Architecture & Design Group to produce this unique shipwreck design complete with the hull of a ship, mast, sails, and water cannons. Natural-looking boulders, logs, and driftwood accented by realistic starfish and mussel detail—all of which emit water spray effects to delight children of all ages where also specially created.

Using glass-fibre-reinforced concrete (GFRC), the design and installation team was able to create the natural look of a shipwreck, long been abandoned and now part of the surrounding environment of the waterfront shores. The splash pad looks like a shipwreck washed up from the shore onto the land long ago and now sea-life, rocks, and driftwood surround the wreck and water surfaces throughout the play structure. Children and adults alike enjoy the cool water while climbing the boat and adjacent logs and wood while enjoying spectacular views of the Puget Sound.

The focal point of the splash pad is a ‘ship-wrecked’ scene appearing to emerge directly out of the adjacent ocean. The GFRC ship contains a custom ‘wrecked’ prow and stern along with a mast with crow’s nest. Project designers even included a wheelchair access point directly through what appears to be a ‘broken hull’–complete with water effects flowing through the edges of the hull-break to delight those going through on foot or in a wheelchair. The structure is impressive with a mast height of 5.5 m (18 ft) and more than 897 L (237 gal) of water flowing through the splash play area. Designed for inclusivity, the water-spraying system is computerized and allows for different ‘play scenarios’ for a wide range of ages and abilities.

Satisfying the client’s wish list

For this project, the client was looking for a themed concept reflecting the spirit of the community and its beautiful surroundings. For hundreds of years, ships have sailed through this harbour, so it was instinctive to gravitate toward having an old ship as the splash pad’s focal point.

Once the client agreed on the ‘shipwreck’ theme, it was vital for the ship to have the appearance of naturally weathered wood. There was also a desire for the components to blend into, and not obstruct, the beauty of the surroundings. All this needed to come together to create an attractive public space, inviting visitors to play.

To accomplish this, the design team worked to create a shipwreck partially sunken into the ground. By doing so, the structures do not block the view of the ocean. Additionally, sea-creatures, into which water features were inserted to provide interactive water play opportunities, were attached to boulders and rocks.

The design and installation team, together with the GFRC manufacturer’s knowledge of American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) and Canadian Playground Safety Institute (CPSI) codes and specifications, were able to create unique features which are also compliant and accessible, ensuring against potential hazards to patrons.

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