We’d like to thank Wallingford resident Greg Flood who wrote the following guest post:
Ask.com is doing a survey to select a project to fund for Seattle and funding operation of our wading pools is one possibility. It only takes a few seconds to vote at http://www.seattleasks.com/ before May 15. If successful, Seattle pools will be saved for this summer, but what about future years?
Seattle Parks and Recreation has reduced the operating hours of Seattle wading pools in recent years due to budget cuts. Parks has tried to encourage conversion of wading pools to water spray features reportedly in order to 1) save water and 2) save the cost of providing staff. A blanket conversion of all pools to spray parks, however, does not “pencil out”, especially for smaller wading pools like at Wallingford Playfield. Conversion does not save water and eliminating staff eliminates more than someone testing the water.
The Wallingford wading pool is relatively small at a little over 5000 gallons. When our wading pool is closed, just 25 families filling a pool in their backyard will consume more water than if the Wallingford wading pool remained open. Water is not saved by closing the pool.
The area around the Wallingford wading pool is tightly constrained and does not lend itself to having a spray park because there is not room for more than two or three spray stations. A spray park at Wallingford would likely not accommodate the same number of children as are currently served by the wading pool.
Spray park conversions are very expensive. The new park being installed at Highland Park in West Seattle, for example, started with a projected budget of $125,000 and is now projected to cost $635,000. As a comparison, we rebuilt the entire park and playground at Wallingford Playfield for a little over $800,000.
Spray parks consume water, too. A recirculated spray park system loses approximately 15% of the circulated volume of water through evaporation. A spray park at Wallingford, if the features are running 60% of the time, would consume over 5000 gallons of water in a normal day, as much as it takes to fill the wading pool. Amazingly, some of the conversions being done by Parks are “once-through” systems that consume 5 to 7 times as much water in a day as a recirculated system – enough to fill the Wallingford pool 5 to 7 times in a day!
During the public design process for Wallingford Playfield from 1999 to 2003, we considered conversion to a spray park. There was overwhelming support for retaining the wading pool. We added ADA access and upgraded the plumbing. Our pool is one of the deepest in the city and many families felt that a wading pool is more toddler-friendly because it provides a controlled introduction to deeper water. Given sufficient area, spray parks can be nice. In a confined area with lots of kids and limited stations, a spray park becomes dangerous for the little ones.
In the past, the staff person at Wallingford Playfield wading pool organized crafts and games in addition to duties monitoring the water quality. This is value-added Parks programming that would be eliminated with conversion to a spray park. The staff person was typically a college student hired via AmeriCorps, or equivalent, providing a student with a summer job and some much needed income to help pay for school. Each of these positions provides a lot of service for very little expenditure by the city, especially if subsidized via AmeriCorps.
A spray park is not equivalent to a wading pool and for Wallingford a spray park would likely consume more water than the wading pool. Eliminating the staff person eliminates many other benefits, including arts and crafts programming, games and activities, and much-needed student employment opportunities. The smaller wading pools in the city should be retained as wading pools and staffed to remain open full time in the summer. Our wading pools are a very popular and well-utilized city resource if they are open. The Department of Parks and Recreation, Seattle Public Utilities, and our Mayor should be encouraged to restore funding for full time opeation of our wading pools. The cost issues cited by Parks are a false economy.