Splash pad slated for Freedom Park

By BRIAN COSNER, News Review Staff Writer

As the city looks toward a high desert summer without the mercy of a public pool, the Ridgecrest City Council may have found a way to beat the heat later this year. Council approved the $750,000 TAB-funded “Free-dom Park Enhancement Project,” which includes a 50-by-95-foot fountain and splash pad.

Councilmember Lindsey Stephens made the proposal to council in February, shortly after Pinney Pool shut down. The unexpected closure came about in part because of litigation regarding lack of handicap access.

The idea of a splash pad as a public summer hangout, as well as its economic feasibility, was met with mixed reactions at first, and the project was assigned to the city’s Quality of Life Committee for further vetting.

“I have a wide range of children, and I am so ecstatic about this splash pad,” said Allison Espinoza, a local mother of four. “We always plan our summer car trips around splash pads.”

“I am very much in favor of this,” added Shawn King, another member of the public. “I think it’s a great quality-of-life improvement for the city.”

In addition to the splash pad, the enhancement project includes a big screen for outdoor movie screenings and a seating and shade area. The city plans on keeping the area open to the public free of charge, but is considering the idea of monetizing the facilities for party rentals.

Parks and Recreation Director Jason Patin confirmed that the Kerr McGee bathrooms would be available for parkgoers and that the installation of slip-resistant flooring around the bathrooms was taken into account.

But the project was not without some concerns from the public.

“I don’t approve of this,” said Ron Porter. “It is my tax dollars, and I am getting no quality of life out of it. It’s not our job to entertain children.”

Porter also argued that the expected maintenance cost of $115-$130 per operating day was “not even close” to correct.

“These people are selling you something,” he said of the company supplying the equipment. “Never believe what a salesman tells you. Whatever they’re telling you cannot possibly be accurate.”

The facility’s estimated water use is 5,000 gallons per day, but Stephens pointed out that this amount is less than a typical soccer field uses.

Others were concerned about the risks of vandalism or other after-curfew abuse of the facility, but its close proximity to the police station seemed to quell most security misgivings.

“I’m not personally crazy about the idea,” said Mayor Pro Tem Mike Mower, who seconded the doubts regarding maintenance costs. “But my wife has been wanting a splash bad for two years now.”

Mayor Peggy Breeden also mentioned that the Economic Development Committee is working on a large-scale “competitive and recreational pool facility.”

But others countered that an aquatics facility, as it is being proposed, is likely to be finished years away and may not be eligible for the expiring TAB funds.

Stephens also said that because there are no actual buildings being built, the splash pad could be complete before winter weather returns.

The clouncil unanimously approved the project, with Vice Mayor Eddie Thomas being absent.

Story First Published: 2017-05-26