Texas and hot. They just go together, like peanut butter and jelly or Donny and Marie or Tom and Jerry or milk and cookies or cat and mouse or burger and fries or, well you get the idea.
It’s hot in Texas. And humid.
So doesn’t it seem natural, just to cool things down a bit, to throw a spray park into the mix so at least the little ones can find some respite from the searing Texas heat and humidity?
That’s what the Houston suburb of Missouri City did. The spray park is the first for Missouri City, a city of nearly 75,000 people that sits just west of Houston.
This is the second dream space highlight from the state of Texas. In a previous post, we featured the Katy Play Station in Katy, another Houston suburb. Katy Play Station’s claim to fame is being the biggest playground in Texas.
But this time it’s all about getting wet.
The Missouri City spray park is in Hunters Glen Park, a 17.58-acre green space off Independence Blvd. in the middle of the Hunters Glen subdivision. Texas-based Fun Abounds oversaw the $200,000 project, which features Vortex Aquatic Structures’ Watergarden products. The project was funded entirely through Blue Ridge West Municipal Utility District (MUD – read more below), which includes the Hunters Glen I, II, III, IV, and V, Hunters Park I and II, and Hunters Point Estates subdivisions. The idea for the spray park originated with Kelly Snook, Missouri City’s past director of parks and recreation.
The idea behind installing a spray park was to offer an out-of-the-ordinary source of play for the community.
Randy Troxell, assistant director of parks and recreation for Missouri City, explained, “A spray park was something different. There was not one in Missouri City and we felt like it was a better alternative than a swimming pool. We already have a traditional playground in that park.”
“This water park, the first of its kind in Fort Bend County that is open to the public, is a refreshing addition to the city’s existing recreation options for families,” Snook told the Houston Chronicle after the spray park’s opening.
The spray park’s official grand opening was June 26, 2009, a day when the mercury soared to 99 degrees F in Missouri City. We told you Texas gets hot.
“Has Been Interesting”
Probably as excited—maybe even more so—than the kids who showed up for the first steams of water to shoot out of the spray park’s water features was Leigh Walden, CPSI and owner of Fun Abounds. It was the company’s first municipal project, which “has been interesting, to say the least,” Walden said.
In addition to being Fun Abounds’ first municipal project and the first spray park in Texas to feature the Vortex Watergarden series, it was a learning experience for Walden, she said. For one thing, she pointed out, since it was a municipal project, her company had to get bonded.
Walden explained, “This was our first project that we needed to be bonded for. Being a new company and in the current economic climate, it was a tough ride but ultimately I was able to get bonded by my personal insurance company as our family has been doing business with them for more than 20 years. The bonding added an additional $5,600 to the project.”
Once that initial bonding hurdle was passed, Walden said the project went fairly smoothly, although looking back on it now, there are things she will keep in mind for future projects.
Groundbreaking for the spray park took place March 16 with the actual construction taking about two months to finish. The nearly 3,500-square-foot facility features polished stainless steel products. The splash pad has eight elevated or above-ground features and six ground sprays. It’s designed to accommodate between 80-120 children at any one time. Additionally, the design of the splash park allows for a water retention and water re-use system which irrigates the spray ground landscaping.
“Our company was the general contractor on the project, so basically we’ve been involved from start to finish,” Walden said. “My role was to sell the equipment in addition to making sure the install went well.”
The Good, The Bad, The …
That allowed her to get a firsthand look at all things good and potentially bad with such a project.
She said, “Honestly in the grand scheme of things, the project really has run smoothly. Tom, who is overseeing the installation, has completed so much background research on the right products to use and techniques; along with his past experience, this has made this project run well.”
That isn’t to say everything went swimmingly, so to speak. “The engineer insisted on us using a curing agent, although we disputed its use, we did not have a choice,” Walden said. “This agent has made the concrete coloring uneven, which has created a little dissatisfaction. Although the coloring should even out in 4-6 weeks, ultimately, we would have liked it absolutely perfect for the grand opening.”
The Missouri City project is one more Walden can add to her already impressive portfolio of playground projects. While her company, Fun Abounds, was relatively new, established in 2007 when she was offered the opportunity to rep for Vortex in southeast Texas, she has been around the playground industry for years. Prior to starting Fun Abounds, Walden was a Landscapes Structures sub-rep for their local rep firm. In 2006 she was the Sales Rep of the Year for LSI.
Currently, Walden is involved in the design of about six upcoming splash pad projects and have sold both Telfair Rec Center and Treeline Subdivision splash pad projects.
So why, with all the playground experience and a still-growing spray park business, did Walden take on the municipal project? She explained, “This is a sector that I have enjoyed working in with playgrounds and wanted to offer the splash pad product for them as well.”
And, as it turns out, the Missouri City splash park has been a great calling card for Walden. “I’m already getting referrals from it,” she said.
And it’s been a great addition to Missouri City. “The spray park is very popular,” Missouri City’s Troxell said. “The only negative comments from the public came when we had mechanical problems and the system had to be shut down for repairs.”
When the spray park was closed after its first season which runs from May-September, all involved can look back over the first season of operation and take stock of how things went for the newest addition to the city’s play options. For Troxell, one of the focuses is on maintenance. He explained, “I have a different perspective than some and that’s maintenance. Once we got the bugs worked out, the system ran mostly problem-free. Also, I did not receive any reports of injuries. The cost to operate (the system) was minimal on the electrical end. Water consumption, that’s a different story. Next season could bring shorter hours and fewer days if the Utility District decides the usage is too much and wants (Missouri) City to pay for the water. Time will tell.”
The reason Troxell mentions water usage is because the Utility District agreed to pay for the water usage of the spray park. “I believe this will be closely monitored this upcoming year and we could adjust the operating times to conserve natural resources,” he said.
From Walden’s perspective, looking back, there are some things that have come to mind. Her advice to others making plans for a splash park? “There are a couple of things,” she said. “Be prepared for the park to be packed. So be mindful of seating, traffic patterns and shade. Shade is very important. In addition, be aware of the gpms of the park’s features. This should be an important factor in determining features used in the park.”
Walden echoed what many in the past have said after finishing a project, regardless of whether it’s a playground, splash park or skate park, that it’s a great feeling to know so many children will benefit from yet another play place.
The most satisfying element of the Missouri City splash park, she said, “Is ultimately knowing how many kids are going to have so much fun.”
What is a MUD?
A Municipal Utility District (MUD) is a political subdivision of the State of Texas authorized by the Texas Commission of Environmental Quality (TCEQ) to provide water, sewage, drainage, and other services within the MUD boundaries.
How is a MUD created?
A majority of property owners in the proposed district petitions the Texas Commission of Environmental Quality to create a MUD. The TCEQ evaluates the petition, holds a public hearing, and grants or denies the petition. After approval, the TCEQ appoints five temporary members to the MUD’s Board of Directors, until an election is called to elect permanent board members, to confirm the MUD’s creation, and to authorize bonds and taxing authority for bond repayment.
How does a MUD work?
The publically-elected Board of Directors manages and controls all of the affairs of the MUD subject to the continuing supervision of the Texas Commission of Environmental Quality. The Board establishes policies in the interest of its residents and utility customers. A MUD may adopt and enforce all necessary charges, fees, and taxes in order to provide district facilities and services.
How do MUDs provide for parks, pools, and recreation facilities?
In addition to their common functions of water and wastewater service, MUDs are legally empowered to engage in conservation, irrigation, electrical generation, firefighting, solid waste collection and disposal, and recreational activities (such as parks, swimming pools, and sports courts). A MUD can provide for itself the recreational amenities that are approved by the Board of Directors and funded by the District.
Source: JPGoodwin Realtors