Texas Utility District Creates A Spray Park To Benefit The Community

An east Texas utility district underwrites a spray park that provides heat relief for kids, instills community pride and creates openings to talk about water conservation.
Texas Utility District Creates A Spray Park To Benefit The Community
Children cool off in the spray park at Hunters Glen Park. The 3,500-square-foot facility has stainless steel flower showers.

Missouri City in eastern Texas is hot. And humid. That’s an uncomfortable combination for people in the city of nearly 75,000 people just west of Houston.

So when given a chance to be part of the city’s grand-scale revitalization effort in 2009, the Blue Ridge West Municipal Utility District (MUD) chose a spray park as a way to give little ones some relief.

“A spray park was something different,” says Llarance Turner, a board member for the district that funded the project and parks board chair for the city. “There wasn’t one in Missouri City and we felt like it was a better, ultimately more cost-effective alternative than a swimming pool.”

A big project

The spray park is in the 18-acre Hunters Glen Park, which already had a traditional playground that was a great draw for kids and families.

The $225,000 project was funded entirely through the MUD. Groundbreaking took place March 16, 2009, and construction took about two months.

The nearly 3,500-square-foot facility features stainless steel flower showers. The splash pad has eight above-ground features and six ground sprays and accommodates 80 to 120 children at a time.

The splash park includes a water retention and reuse system that irrigates surrounding landscaping. The park amenities also include a 0.6-mile walking trail, basketball courts, a play area for kids and two fields for football, soccer and other youth activities.

“The spray park is much more fun than a traditional swimming pool for kids,” says Turner. “The municipality doesn’t need to employ lifeguards, which is a money-saver in the long run, and the facility itself requires less maintenance than a swimming pool. That’s why you’re starting to see many cities steer away from swimming pools to facilities such as this.”

Engaging the population

“The spray park has been extremely popular. The only negative comments from the public come when we have mechanical problems and the system has to be shut down for repairs. Fortunately, those situations have been rare,” says Turner.

The spray park can stay open longer each year than most pools. It’s typically open from April through October, depending on the weather.

Concerns that the spray park may have only “fad” appeal were unfounded. “The facility isn’t regularly staffed, so attendance numbers are more or less an estimation, but use of the park has actually increased every summer since we opened it,” says Turner. “We’re adding parking to accommodate the traffic.”

The spray park has also led to an increase in usage for the park itself. School and community youth organizations regularly make fun trips to the park, centered on use of the spray park.

“If you drive by during the day in May and June, you’re almost guaranteed to see at least one school bus along with church and youth group vehicles,” says Turner. “A lot of youth sports teams really enjoy cooling off after their games in the park, too. I think having it in the neighborhood has instilled pride in the community.”

Community partnership

While the Blue Ridge West MUD designed and funded the project, the property itself is owned and maintained by Missouri City. Turner says the cooperation between the two groups couldn’t have been smoother.

“The city totally embraced the idea and has been very happy with the result,” he says. “When partnerships such as this work well, it creates a great sense of camaraderie.”

Larger groups have also taken notice. The project, specifically the water-retention and reuse system, received the Policy Tool award from the Houston-Galveston Area Council, highlighting best practices and innovative approaches to park planning and implementation.

“The recognition is great because it provides us the opportunity to talk about the importance of water conservation,” says Turner. “We also do regular presentations through the schools with our Water Wise program, which gives us the chance to highlight both our conservation efforts and the spray park.”

Looking back on the project, Turner says its value is difficult to measure in dollars. “It’s really been one of those projects that we initially thought would simply fill a void, but it’s been much more than that,” he says.

He strongly encourages other municipalities considering similar projects to take the leap: “You’ll never go wrong providing cool avenues for family entertainment and enjoyment. The partnership might be a little uncomfortable at the beginning, but you can’t be afraid to bite off this sort of thing. In the end, it’s something to really be proud of.”   


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