I recently picked up a new magazine “Real Small Towns – The Art of Community”. The cover caught my eye and the title of the magazine drew me in. The Editor in Chief, Sheila Sherwin writes in her Editor’s letter: “Focusing on small towns that may lack the economic engines of a larger city but have no shortage of passion, commitment, or creativity to get things done, we highlight people and movements helping real, small towns to survive and thrive through imagination and pluck.”
When I was a brand newbie here, I kept hearing people say how special the community of Marshalltown is and it’s all to do with the people who are invested in making a difference and seeing Marshalltown succeed. Indeed, this is one of our top five reasons to make Marshalltown home.
I heard about Splash 4 Life months ago. It is a prime example of the strength and resolve of the people of our town. Read more about the idea below in our Q&A with Anna Wolvers, one of the coordinators of Splash 4 Life.
Please tell us where the idea for the splash pad began. In the summer of 2012, Marshalltown had extensive heat and flooding. Four young children lost their lives to the Iowa River within two weeks of each other. Some of them were from a culture where the river is a way of life for entertainment, food, and cooling off. Three of them were in one family. After such tragic loss, two moms (Leigh Bauder and Misty Smith) were at a baseball field and instead of complaining about it, they brainstormed what could be done to make things better.
For those who are not familiar, what is a splash pad? You will often see them in bigger cities. The Des Moines Fairgrounds has jumping water by the Grandstand and some water parks have splash pad areas for little kids. They are a cement pad with holes for water to splash out of. Different spray features can also be added that look like water buckets, spray hoses, flowers, etc. They have no standing water or pinch points. They are accessible for all ages and abilities and are great for cooling off, outdoor recreation, and can be designed with the earth in mind, by recycling the water for irrigation purposes.
Tell us more about the splash pad proposed in Marshalltown. The purpose of our proposed pad is to be a memorial for the children our town lost. The shape will look like a fish for multiple reasons (send the kids to the big fish instead of the river, we are home to FISHer Emerson, and when the children look down from Heaven they’ll see the fish in their honor.) We are also working to incorporate historical and artistic features into the splash pad and walks leading to the area.
We hope to eventually have 4 smaller pad features on the North, East, West, and South sides of town. Each of the smaller pads will have art features incorporating what each kid liked (games, Kool-Aid, etc).
Our intention is to have FREE water play for all ages and abilities in this town. We know many families can’t afford the local aquatic center. It would also be great for daycares and recreation enthusiasts to have a place to cool off after biking, walking, or hiking.
What are the primary benefits of a splash pad to the community? And to kids and families? Studies have shown there is increased community efforts where splash pads exist. People take pride and ownership of them, and ask questions of outsiders they notice. Increased property values, and lower crime rates have also been known to occur in towns with splash pads.
To kids and families: safe place to play, way to cool off in excruciating heat and humidity, great for large families that can’t afford the aquatic center, and another option if the pool is full or closed for maintenance. There is no need for lifeguards so it can be open longer than pool hours. It’s a great option for larger families or daycares. The smaller space makes it easier to keep an eye on your whole party. It’s a great outdoor recreation opportunity that is open for all ages and abilities. The pads are a flat surface, so they are wheelchair accessible.
Where are you at in the process of building a splash pad? We have a company to build it and are currently fundraising to get needed funds. We also got our 501(c)3 status this past summer, officially making us a non-profit organization. In order to build the memorial pad, concrete installation, electrical substation to run it and pad spray features, and future maintenance, we need around $250,000.
What do you need from the community members at this point? Help in spreading the word, running and attending fundraising efforts, writing grants, in kind donations of labor or concrete, electrical, etc. We’d love volunteers who can set up and work tip nights at local businesses, help write grants, pray for our success, donate ink, paper, postage to print fundraising flyers or send thank you’s, and any other creative fundraising ideas they have to help.
What are your biggest roadblocks right now and what are the proposed solutions to these? Our biggest roadblocks are time to focus on all that is needed, and the need for more to come aboard and help us. The board members are full-time employees besides volunteering for Splash_4_Life, moms, and volunteers in other organizations. We will take any help from the community in making this happen. It is a project for all of Marshalltown.
How would it be maintained? Has the city agreed to support this or are there ongoing maintenance expenses through the nonprofit? The proposed splash pad will be designed to be “green”. We are working to include solar solutions to generate power so we can run the splash pad and use a water re-purpose system to keep costs at a minimum. The plan includes the development of an endowment fund through the community foundation which would allow for some of the earnings to be drawn down annually to address maintenance issues. When presenting the idea to City Council, they have welcomed the idea but as there is no money in the City budget, we were given the challenge to raise the funds. City administration has recently put out an RFP to hire a consultant to develop a master plan for all of the parks in Marshalltown. Splash 4 Life is excited to be included in this process and will be working with our Park & Rec and consultant. The current intent is to go through the appropriate legal process to gift the splash pad and maintenance fund back to the City following completion and dedication of the splash pad. Details have not been finalized.
What % of the funds go to the building of the splash pad vs. administration/overhead? 100% of funds go to building of the splash pad. Administration/overhead is being donated through volunteers and out of our own pockets.
Do you have designs and/or sample splash pads you’d model ours after? Leigh has toured several in Wisconsin and has been working with Vortex Aquatic Structures International, Inc. to design our model splash pad. We are happy to present to organizations for more information and a showing.
If you have questions or want to volunteer your time to Splash 4 Life, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.