splash pad

Chapel Hill Splash Pad Location Activation Tracker (SPLAT)

We recently asked you where to put a splash pad in Chapel Hill and received great suggestions, including what you value in choosing a splash pad location and amenities you’d like to see included.

To analyze the suggestions, Triangle Blog Blog carefully assembled a team of experts – and by experts I mean 5 or 6 of us Blog Bloggers who had some spare time today to discuss the suggestions when not working or watching the absolutely insane Jan 6 hearing.

OK, maybe we’re not expert splash pad analysts (is anyone, really?), but we did have important factors in mind as we reviewed the suggested location:

  • Transportation (and access to existing public bus lines for families without cars)
  • Equity (The splash pad should be located so that children in all parts of town can access it.)
  • Utilities – You need to have water, wastewater lines, and power to have a splash pad!

(Other important considerations, according to this helpful guide for pre-planning a splash pad, include water table considerations, access to bathrooms and sidewalks, permits and zoning, and having a visible location).

Enough with the sophisticated methodology, let’s get to the findings.

Survey Respondents Play Well With Others

In the survey, we asked respondents to rank how important certain factors are when thinking about where a splash pad should be located (1-5, with 1 being not very important and 5 being very important).

The results indicate that Blog Blog Read Readers are a tenderhearted and eco-conscious group, caring most about the splash pad being accessible to all. See below for respondents’ splash pad location preferences, from most to least important:

  1. Accessible via non-automotive travel, such as via sidewalks, greenways, or bike lanes (mean 4.68)
  2. Accessible to as many families as possible, even if that means it is less convenient for your family (4.47)
  3. Located close to where most children with families live (4.32)
  4. Accessible by Chapel Hill Transit (4.11)
  5. Centrally located in town (3.58)
  6. Accessible by car (3.05)
  7. Close to where you live (3.05)

What Amenities Do We Want in a Splash Pad?

We were impressed by the amenities respondent suggested including in a splash pad, which ranged from the practical to the apparently-stoners-enjoy-splash-pads-too. Let’s fire up those ARPA funds because I want that giant bucket ASAP:

  • Giant bucket that dumps water unexpectedly
  • Water jet field, lights, rocks to climb on, a misting area, tunnels
  • A soft ground surface
  • Picnic tables
  • All-gender bathrooms and/or changing rooms
  • Grass, greenery, and shaded areas for a picnic blanket
  • Self spray nozzles
  • Security cameras
  • Use of repurposing or re-circulation to minimize the drain on local water reserves
  • Refreshments
  • Benches & shade (for the non-splashers)
  • Hot dog and ice cream carts

We Have A Lot of Great Potential Locations for a Splash Pad

The expert judges wrestled mightily with whether we need one big splash pad, or several smaller ones. After much debate – or perhaps because the effing bonkers Jan 6 hearing was starting – we accepted one judge’s suggestion that “Every playground should have a water feature, and we should also build a destination splash pad.” Wise words, indeed.

Below, we discuss the pros and cons of 11 locations submitted. Slide into our socials to let us know what you think.

1. Cedar Falls Park

Cedar Falls Park

The person who suggested Cedar Falls Park said it was “not in a flood plain” and “close to their house.”

Pros:

  • It already has parking and other services like lighting.
  • Cedar Falls gets used a lot for soccer.
  • A lot of adult teams seem to play pickup soccer there. You could say an entire family could go there and Parent 1 does splash pad while Parent 2 plays soccer.
  • The T bus runs there.
  • It’s where the adaptive playground will be.

Cons:

  • I’m not sure how well-used this park is by kids.
  • It’s not really centrally located, which I think is important if we’re only building one splash pad. It’s not great from an equity standpoint.
  • The T bus only runs four trips a day now, due to the operator shortage and demand — and none on the weekend.

2. Chapel Hill Community Center Park

Chapel Hill Community Center

Picked by three people, who liked its central location and parking. One writes, “I have thought for years it would be a perfect location for a splash pad, no joke.”

Pro

  • Really good transit access
  • There’s room besides the existing indoor pool, so you could keep the existing playground where it is
  • The location could appeal to people who get heat exhaustion at the farmer’s market. Get your arugula, then cool off at the splash pad.
  • Close to farmer’s market, camps located at the community center, and shopping.

Not sure

Con

  • Not great parking. It might work better for a smaller splash installation, as opposed to a giant splash pad. (Although you could park at the mall if a better crossing could be installed.)

3. MLK Park in Carrboro

MLK Park in Carrboro

We love this park but it seems like it would be hard to redo it (and it was just created.) It’s far away from the center of population. A splash pad here would be nice for the people who live nearby, but it’s not centrally located and in a not-so-diverse area.

One of our planners says, “I like the placemaking potential of a splash pad but for that to work you need something other than single family homes nearby.”

Carrboro, get back to us when you’ve upzoned the area.

4. Southern Village Park

Southern Community Park

The person who wrote said there’s lots of parking and an existing playground that’s well-used.

We also know Southern Village is a possible destination for the BRT. (Can you imagine boarding the bus that says Southern Village/Splash Pad?)

We see the appeal of Southern Village if there are multiple splash pads created — but if there’s only one, this is really on the far edge of where most people live.

Pro

  • Lots of parking and good transit access
  • Lots of other things to do/see

Con

  • It’s far from the center of our community and not near lower income neighborhoods

5. Homestead Park

Homestead Park

Homestead Park is easily accessible by bus, points out one of the two people who requested a splash pad here.

But it already has a ton of amenities – including a pool and a skate park.

BUT…if you built housing where the soccer fields are located and move them to where the baseball fields are, you could create some transit-facing housing plus a splash pad. Easy peasy.

6. Umstead Park

I’m not going to lie, I initially thought this respondent was referring to the William B. Umstead State Park in Raleigh, and I thought poorly of them for suggesting it (I call this park “Exchange Club”). Thankfully, a wiser Blog Blogger corrected me. I regret the error.

The person who suggested this wrote, “It’s accessible by multiple modes and has open space to work with and has existing bathrooms.”

Our judges agree. One says: “I like this location – it’s on the Bolin Creek Trail, close to Carrboro and Chapel Hill, and it’s old enough that it merits updating.”

There’s some parking here – but not a huge amount. Likewise, the bus service is ok, but infrequent. But it’s within walking distance of Northside, which would allow more people to access the splash pad without driving.

7. Future public park next to 136 Rosemary

The person who suggested this site said, “I see this as something like the Rose Kennedy Greenway Fountains in Boston. It will be a heavily trafficked area, it will provide activation to that park, and will be a way to attract families to downtown.”

Our judges love this idea. It’s a great way for people to rediscover downtown, and we could pay for it from funds designated for downtown. What a great way to bring young families downtown, many of whom will also grab a snack or take a walk along Franklin Street.

And it’s transit friendly, and centrally located. Philadelphia and Chicago have both put water features in their downtown recently, and it’s been wonderful to see so many young kids having fun in a public space.

9. Near Hargraves Community Center

This might be too small for a destination splash pad, but it would be a great candidate for a smaller splash pad or water play area in the existing play area. The existing playground has shade (!), seating for parents, and nearby picnic seating — all wins in our book.

Pros

  • Central to the community – great location
  • Near land already used for recreation
  • Easy to get there on foot/bike/transit
  • Near after school programs
  • Decent parking
  • Creates an opportunity to make improvements to AD Clark Pool, which is a a wonderful pool but has less shade than Death Valley, CA

10. Morehead Planetarium parking lot

Morehead Planetarium

This was the most unusual suggestion we received, but we like it — if Chapel Hill owned the land. It’s centrally located, has great parking, and would draw people to amenities on Franklin Street on campus. However, it’s on UNC-owned land, and we’re pretty sure UNC isn’t going to build a destination splash pad at the moment.

11. Carrboro Farmer’s Market

A great location, and the addition of a splash pad could make it a seven-day destination. It’s right next to Carrboro Town Hall, with great shade, and good bathrooms — and easy connections to transit. We also see this as a good location for Mayor Seils’s office hours (one judge jokingly suggested installing a permanent dunk tank for use by disgruntled citizens).

However, it’s likely best for a smaller splash area — instead of a destination — because it’s far away from many spots in Chapel Hill.

Conclusions: Where should it go?

Any good splash pad has shaded areas, changing and restroom facilities, picnic tables, grass, refreshments, and really big buckets that pour water on visitors at unsuspecting times.

We’re excited to see how the splash pad conversations progress. For now, if you’re #TeamSplashPad, we recommend

1. Signing Kate Sayre’s splashpad petition.

2. Looking to Fayetteville, which has worked with the Kiwanis Club of Cape Fear to fundraise to build their splash pads. Is there a group in Chapel Hill we can approach?

3. Seeing if we can put together a group to apply for a KaBoom! playground grant for a splashpad.

4. Park yourself in front of Town Hall with a hose, a bucket, and a spray nozzle until Council agrees to build a splash pad (or, if you’re busy, send them a quick email letting them know you’d love to have a splash pad in town)

5. Setting up a prototype on Franklin Street with a hose, a giant bucket perched on Top of the Hill, a slip ‘n slide, drainage, bathrooms, self-spray nozzles. Hey! You’ve just created our first splash pad!