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Splash pad plan well received

Artist’s rendering of the proposed splash pad in Atmore

A local civic club’s plan to construct a water-themed children’s park in Atmore has apparently made a big splash with local businesses, grant agencies and others.

In fact, the commitment of funds to the project has organizers thinking about expanding the scope of the idea.

“Our goal was $127,000; we’ve raised $135,000, or at least have that much committed,” Atmore Rotary Club member Allen Walston said of the project, labeled on preliminary drawings as Atmore Rotary Club Splash Pad but actually a joint venture between Rotary, Atmore Lions Club and the city of Atmore. “If we could get $150,000 we could add shades, benches and other upgrades. We’re even looking at a Phase II, a playground at the Splash Pad.”

The fundraising effort’s first shots in the arm came in the form of a $7,500 grant from Gulf Coast Resource Conservation & Development Council, along with $25,000 pledges from each of the civic-club partners.

The initial goal was well exceeded when Poarch Band of Creek Indians committed $75,000 to the project, an anonymous donor chipped in $10,000 and several local business officials expressed interest in helping fund the project.

Janice Godwin, executive director of GCRCDC, said the project was chosen from “more than 400” applicants for the limited funds the organization awards each year.

“There’s always a lot of discussion, about each application, before the grants are awarded,” she said.

The splash pad will be built at Johnnie F. Woods Memorial Park, across the street from Heritage Park. Mayor Jim Staff confirmed that plans include the taking down of the south ball field (the one closest to the Boy Scout hut), several upgrades to the property and the closing of the road between the two parks.

Mayor Jim Staff labeled the 1,800-square-foot Splash Pad project, and the financial support for it, as “fantastic” and said the city would be an active partner.

“It’s a great day in Atmore; the citizens are coming together,” Staff said. “I don’t know how much money the city will have to spend. We’ll have to pave the parking lot, put up a covered building, do some landscaping and rehabilitate the bathrooms. It just depends on how much money is raised. We’re going to make it nice.”

He added that the removal of the ball field won’t be too painful for park patrons, since the diamond has seen only scant use in recent years.

“The tee-ball field is not regulation; the fences aren’t the right distance,” the mayor said. “It wasn’t being used, and we had to do something with it.”

Walston pointed out that the splash pad is “not specific to one segment of the community” and said, barring any unforeseen difficulties, the new recreational facility should be open within the next six months or so.

“We hope to have the ribbon-cutting at the end of April or the first of May,” he said. “I’m really excited about it, and the community should be.”

Any individual, business or other entities interested in donating to the splash pad project can do so by sending tax-deductible contributions to Rotary Club of Atmore, P.O. Box 327, Atmore, AL 36502. Please specify that the gift is for the splash pad.

Staff said the city would maintain the new outdoor activity and pay for the water usage, which is expected to be around 100 gallons per minute.

“I haven’t heard from anybody that doesn’t want one of these things,” he said. “People won’t have to go to Bay Minette to enjoy a splash pad; they’ll have one right here in town.”