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Smithers needs a splash pad

Marisca thinks the town should build a mini water park

Last month I took my daughters to Heritage Park when the firefighters were set up to help people cool off. They had sprinklers set up and were spraying kids with their hoses. There were so many people.

The joy on kids’ faces as they ran through the sprinklers was contagious. My daughters had a blast. While making small talk with other parents while trying to dodge the sprinklers, a common theme sprang up. Almost everyone I talked with was wondering why Smithers doesn’t have a splash pad.

We’ve visited other towns that have these. They are incredibly fun. It is basically a park with sprinklers. It is an amazing way to cool off while having a great time.

The incredible amount of children and the constant baby boom in Smithers should be reason enough to have one. We are a family-friendly town. Being a small town can’t be a reason not to have one. Burns Lake has one and their population is about a quarter of Smithers.

That town constructed one in 2020 for $450,000.

Burns Lake Director of Recreation Services Lewis Jones said operational costs are fairly minimal. Key operations costs include staff time.

“We have our parks and public works staff complete maintenance and annual start-up and shutdown work for the park. We don’t have this tracked for the splash park specifically, as it is included in parks wages.”

He added utilities costs are very low for this park. “Ours is plumbed into municipal water, and is operated by a computer controlled system. The hydro is run from our arena, and is very minimal. We have not seen a significant increase to hydro use from the splash park.”

Lewis said worth noting is they opted for a system that does not recirculate the water, in an effort to keep operational costs down. Theirs uses municipal water to feed it, and then drains out to storm drains. Recirculating systems are often used to conserve water, but will require much more monitoring and staff time.

“The park is very well used,” he said. “We do not have quantitative data on this as it is an unmonitored space without any admission cost, but any sunny day will see steady use of the splash park through the day. The public response has been very positive.”

How can Smithers get one? I suppose we need someone to champion the project but is that always how things should happen here?

That can also take a long time. The second sheet of ice project was pushed and created by a group of citizens and that took over 20 years. The skateboard expansion is another community-driven initiative and is taking less time, but still, it is a lot of effort from volunteers to forge ahead with that project.

Usually, in bigger city centres when a developer creates a new subdivision, they have to also create a park or playground. A new subdivision was just approved in town without one. This would have been a great time for the town to push for the developer to build one. In other places, the developer pays for the cost of the playground, maybe it is different in smaller towns but this might have been a missed opportunity.

Smithers has a parks and recreation department. I don’t know what the park budgets are like but grant money always seems to be available.

Why should volunteers always have to spearhead these types of projects that should fall under the town’s umbrella? Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for passionate people pushing projects ahead, but I’m also for our tax dollars being used for things we like to use. So I’m wondering, if we ask nicely, can we receive?

Apparently, that might be possible. According to the town’s Director of Community Services Ryan Coltura the best time to champion for a new park will be during the Parks & Recreation Master Planning process that will be conducted in 2023.

“There will be lots of opportunities for residents to comment about what they like, don’t like, and would like to see with regards to parks and recreation opportunities and amenities,” he said.

Our summers may not be long but they are getting hotter and I know children would use (and get great joy from) a splash pad anyway, rain or shine.

Marisca Bakker

About the Author: Marisca Bakker

Marisca was born and raised in Ontario and moved to Smithers almost ten years ago on a one-year contract.
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