Splash pad proposed for Santa Fe Park

Marianne Gillespie

The city and the Chillicothe Park District are delving into uncharted territory as officials discuss land exchanging hands.

CPD manager Kevin Yates said park district officials are interested in acquiring city parks if possible.

First on their list is Santa Fe Park, with plans for a splash pad at that location.

Next is the park to eventually be located in RiverSound subdivision. One park that will always be kept by the city is Cutright Park, because it is in the TIF district, said Chillicothe cemetery/parks chairwoman Judy Cantwell.

She said the idea is a “win-win situation.” On April 12, she spoke to the Chillicothe Park District board of trustees at its meeting about the idea.

Officials planned to meet again Tuesday.

“We’re looking for an intergovernmental agreement with a 5-year time frame,” said Cantwell. “The city will give the park district five years to begin capital improvements (splash pad).

“If, at that time, they have done nothing, the city will take it back. If they have, the city will begin discussions on turning it over to the park district.”

Yates said the question many ask is why the park district would want the city’s parks.

“We are the park district,” said Yates. “We are in the park business. This is what we do.”

Additionally, Yates said, the park district does not have a lot of property with which to work.

With Shore Acres complete with its clubhouse, pool, ball diamond, river walk, playground and green space, most of the district’s other property is in the flood plain, like Nellie Jackson and Walnut Dog parks.

The dog park is close to being finished, as the fence is up to separate small and large dogs. The parking lot base is done with the bordering of it remaining.

A grand opening is planned for the last weekend in May, including activities for “extreme dog lovers,” Yates said.

Officials appreciate the enthusiasm of the community in the project, but the gates are locked now until work is finished.

Community effort aided the district in completing projects  or getting them off the ground, such as Joe Boyer donating money for the acquisition of the Neighborhood House camp area on Yankee Lane and the Chillicothe Foundation donating funds to renovate Shore Acres Pool.

With work complete at the pool and the dog park almost finished, Yates looks for the next project to tackle.

At Santa Fe Park, Yates said he and officials want to see a splash pad, which is a playground with water fountains and structures, but it is located on a flat piece of concrete or non-skid pads. It is not a pool, he said.

Sometimes called a splash park, he said the area could be as small as half a basketball court or as big as Shore Acres Pool now.

With little winterizing or maintenance, Yates said the structure’s advantages are numerous, including no lifeguards are needed.

The splash pad can be turned on from May through October, as long as weather allows, Yates said.

Park officials also like the location of Santa Fe Park, Yates said.

The area is probably too far for children to walk to Shore Acres Pool, and splash pad would be free, Yates said.

The park is in the middle of a neighborhood and is not isolated like much of the CPD’s other property, which may lessen the chance of vandalism, Yates said.

Officials are hashing out the details, and Yates said nothing is set in stone.

In his preliminary research, he said a structure like this would cost at least $150,000.

Yates said he would want to look for grants and other funding sources.

Even if the details are worked out soon, Yates said the structure would not be in place this summer. He said park officials do not plan to exchange money.

Though money would not exchange hands, Yates said he thought the move may free some of the city’s money for maintenance of the park.

“In the parks and cemetery committee’s opinion, it will not be a cost savings to the city,” said Cantwell. “The same amount of money will be budgeted, and little money is spent there now.”

Also, the park district already pays liability insurance for its other parks, and may have more freedom in what can be offered to the public, Yates said.

At Santa Fe Park, Yates said not much would change to begin with, if approved.

The sign would change to add the park district’s logo, but the name would remain the same.

The new playground equipment would remain, but the wooden playground would probably be removed due to the CPD’s insurance company.

The splash pad would not interfere with the baseball field if residents and officials want to keep the field.

“We feel it’s our responsibility to have the best yard in the neighborhood,” said Yates, adding that officials hope they have set a good example with Shore Acres Park.