City celebrates splash pad opening

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GREENFIELD — As city leaders cut through a green ceremonial ribbon, the fountains sprayed and waterfalls gushed.

It was the perfect day to celebrate the completion of the splash pad at Riley Pool, 300 Apple St. — hot and sunny enough the water features provided relief to the dozens of youngsters eager to try out the buckets, slide and sprinklers installed and ready in the free-admission facility.

City leaders recalled the day of the groundbreaking in February couldn’t have been more different — icy cold and windy, which foretold a challenging construction process, said parks superintendent Ellen Kuker.

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“It seemed like every week there was some new challenge,” she said.

“The parks staff and construction crews handled them all with grace.”

She thanked all the city departments, the parks board, city elected officials and the mayor for supporting the project.

Though it is connected to Riley Pool, the splash pad will have more open hours per day and be open longer throughout the year than the pool, because the no-depth water features don’t require lifeguards.

The facility will be open May to October, weather permitting, said parks board member Kathy Dowling in March.

The $2 million splash pad project was a long time coming, but Friday marked a ‘watershed moment’ for the city’s youngest residents, who will enjoy the facility for years to come, said Rick Roberts, parks board president.

City officials have long planned to upgrade the Riley Park Pool, which was first built in the 1980s and has remained mostly the same since; a 2005 attempt to take out a $3.5 million bond to build a new water park, complete with slides and a lazy river, was vetoed by former Mayor Rodney Fleming.

A second project, costing about $3.3 million, to renovate the existing pool and its amenities is planned to begin in the fall of 2018 and open in May 2019, Kuker said.

That project will add shade structures, cabanas, renovated bathrooms and locker rooms, as well as a reconfigured admission area.

The short ceremony before the water was turned on also celebrated a local artist whose contribution will decorate one of the amenity’s new buildings.

Lauren Hughes, who won a mural contest held by the parks department, was present during the ceremony, and two young volunteers held a sign with what the mural will look like when complete.

“I just thought about my own child, what she would like to see, and tapped into those childlike instincts,” Hughes said about her mural project, which contains “Bold colors, lots of animals, fun things kids would like to see.”

Greenfield resident Melissa Turcotte and her daughter, Emily Winne, enjoyed the grand opening of the new splash pad.

They’d seen crews putting the finishing touches on the facility on Thursday and made plans to come and see what it had to offer, Turcotte said. They’ve lived in several areas and have enjoyed splash pads in those communities, she added.

“We’re very happy they have one here now,” she said.

Emily, 6, a student at Harris Elementary School, said her favorite feature of the splash pad was a squirrel atop a barrel that splashes those below it with a curtain of water periodically.

She was excited to have the new option available this summer.

“I think it’s good,” she said.