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Splash pad idea hits snag

This sketch shows features that are sometimes included in splash pad designs. A splash pad has little or no standing water. (Drawing courtesy of Aquatix Landscape Structures)

An idea to build a splash pad in Alexandria had some cold water thrown on it at Monday night's city council meeting.

Funding might be a problem.

Individually, several council members expressed enthusiasm to the community group that wants to build it, but they turned down a request for the city to share in the cost, roughly estimated at $500,000.

"I'm not trying to burst any bubbles — I just want you know that money is not earmarked for this," council member Todd Jensen told Brandon Johnson, one of the leaders behind the idea.

A splash pad is a recreational area, often placed in parks, that offers water fountains, geysers or sprays that people of all ages can use to cool off in the summer. Sauk Centre recently added one and there are splash pads in Sartell, Waite Park, Sauk Rapids and three in St. Cloud.

Interest for a splash park started to build in the spring of 2016 when the city began to receive emails and calls about the idea.

A group of local residents, headed by Johnson and Sarah Reif, has been studying the possibility for more than a year. They gathered information from other cities and worked with Bill Thoennes, the city's parks and facilities director, on the details — possible locations, design, systems and cost.

The group met with the city's park board last month and talked about putting a 50-by-70-foot splash pad in Dean Melton/Fillmore Park, south of the new restrooms. A chlorination filtration system could be located in the garage/storage area of the restrooms. The park board unanimously supported the idea of having the group proceed with its fundraising.

The group plans to raise about $150,000 in private funds and hoped the city could contribute $350,000 from its capital improvement fund so the splash pad could be constructed as early as next summer.

Johnson told the council that young families and tourists specifically travel to cities that have splash pads.

The council, however, said it has other priorities in its budget, including improvements at the Runestone Community Center.

"I'm personally in support of this," said council member Virgil Batesole. "But we have so many pressing issues and we've got to keep taxes down."

Mayor Sara Carlson said there are questions to work out — having the park board recommend a location to the council and determining who would be responsible for ongoing maintenance. She encouraged the group to keep working with the park board and start raising money.

"Everyone would like to have a splash pad but at the taxpayers' expense, it remains to be seen," Carlson said.

Batesole also encouraged the group to keep pursuing the idea. "You've got us thinking," he said.

"So that's a start," Johnson said.

Al Edenloff

Al Edenloff is the news and opinion page editor for the Echo Press. He was born in Alexandria and lived most of his childhood in Parkers Prairie. He graduated with honors from Moorhead State University with a degree in mass communications, print journalism. He interned at the Echo Press in the summer of 1983 and was hired a year later as a sports reporter. He also worked as a news reporter/photographer. Al is a four-time winner of the Minnesota Newspaper Association's Herman Roe Award, which honors excellence in editorial writing.  

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