Harold Preston, of Newton Street, said there are a lot of people who can’t afford to go to the recreation center. He stressed his concern for children who need to cool off on a hot day, but won’t have access to the water-based playground because their parents or guardians can’t afford to go to Ernsthausen.
“It takes money to get into the rec center,” added the man who has lived in Norwalk for about 28 years.
“Everybody needs a splash pad to cool off,” he told the Reflector. “Why don’t they take donations for the splash pad? If you don’t have any money that day, that’s OK too.”
Norwalk Councilman Chris Castle brought up the subject of location during Tuesday’s work session. Castle, who represents the fourth ward, asked what the advantage is of having the splash pad at the community center instead being at one of the city parks.
In response, public works director Josh Snyder said the biggest advantage is “we have all the utilities on-site” and having the splash pad at a park would make it very expensive for access to electricity and plumbing. Also, safety-service director Dan Wendt said the location was mandated by the way the grant proposal was written.
Snyder confirmed that in a later interview.
“My understanding is the reason it (the splash pad) was funded was because it was a revenue-generator,” he said Thursday.
Also, the engineer said there would be “an additional up-charge” if the splash pad were installed in a city park and there’s much less cost having it at Ernsthausen since the utilities are there already.
Joe Lindenberger, Norwalk superintendent of parks and recreation, and recreation director Niki Cross have said they expect the splash pad to get a lot of use, draw more residents to Ernsthausen and reach a larger population, with a primary goal of reaching toddlers and preschoolers through “tweens.”
In mid-January 2016, Bob Patusky — the safety-service director at the time — sent an email to Sen. Gayle Manning (R-North Ridgeville) and then-state Rep. Terry Boose in which he requested state funding for infrastructure projects. Patusky said such projects, which were narrowed down from 12 to three, “are important for the city of Norwalk to undertake,” but there aren't any “financial resources” available.
Patusky, who listed the splash pad as third in priority, wrote in his email that Ernsthausen “enhances the quality of life for not only Norwalk residents, but for those in surrounding communities,” but unfortunately its “budgets suffer the most during tough financial times.”
“The ‘Rec’s’ goal is to increase participation and keep fees affordable to the public. Our research found that splash pads are a major draw for families. We were told by communities that added them to expect revenue and participation to increase by 20 percent,” he wrote.
In mid-April 2016, Manning announced, as part of the 13th Senate District capital projects, Norwalk was set to receive a $200,000 grant for creating a splash pad.
Fast-forward to this year. A city crew performed preliminary utility work in May. The plan is for the general services department to do some excavation work.
The 40-foot by 80-foot splash pad will be east of the zero-depth entry to the outside pool. The recreation area, which is similar to a public playground, uses recirculated, treated pool water.
Construction will start in September or October after the outdoor Ernsthausen pool closes.
Ernsthausen has received a $50,000 donation from Help Me Grow that will go toward the remaining $200,000 from a Senate Bill 310 community economic development grant.