By DON FLETCHER
The anticipated opening of Atmore’s splash pad — a 2,000-square feet, water-themed playground for children — is just a few days away, and children and parents throughout the area are chomping at the bit to make use of the new kiddie attraction.
The official opening of the water-spouting, water-dumping, water-spraying fun zone will take place at 3 p.m. Friday, following the ceremonial ribbon cutting, which is set for 2 p.m. There will be some brief remarks from various speakers before the ribbon is snipped and a few minutes of socializing afterwards, then children will be allowed to rush into the watery play area.
Becky Corcoran said her three offspring are long past being ready for the opening.
“Every time there’s something about it in the paper or on Facebook, they get all excited and they go on and on for days about how much longer it’s going to be,” the Huxford resident said as she shopped at a local retail store on Saturday. “It’s about to the point where they need to either open it up, or somebody needs to come take these young’uns and keep them until it does open.”
The new recreation and play area will be open seven days a week — from 10 a.m., when the automated water system cuts on, until 6 p.m., when it shuts itself off — each day.
The first shovels of splash pad soil were turned on February 13, marking the official start of a project that would take Pelham-based J.A. Dawson & Co. only three months to complete, although there are some aspects that will still be pending on Friday.
“We’re excited, ready to go,” said Allen Walston, who spearheaded the funding drive that made the splash pad possible. “Our goal was to open it before Memorial Day weekend. There was some discussion about waiting a little longer, but that was shot down. It needs to be open.
“The city still has a few things to do, and I hope they can take care of some of those things by Friday. There will be another slab poured between the bleachers and the pad, a new pad for the vending machines, the parking lot still has to be paved, things like that.”
Walston was at the forefront of an effort that generated considerably more than the $127,000 needed to put up a basic playground structure, allowing organizers to add a covered seating and rest area for parents and guardians, as well as a paved parking lot and a few other amenities.
The splash pad is a joint effort of Atmore’s two major civic clubs — Atmore Rotary and Atmore Lions, which pledged $25,000 each — as well as the city of Atmore, which is providing the water and paving the parking area.
A $7,500 grant from Gulf Coast Resource Conservation & Development Council got the financial ball rolling, and it continued rolling. The splash pad’s success was secured when Poarch Band of Creek Indians committed $75,000 to the project. Several local businesses, including Gulf Winds Federal Credit Union and First National Bank and Trust, also made sizable contributions, and an anonymous donor chipped in $10,000.
The park is located across Trammell Street from Heritage Park, adjacent to Johnnie F. Woods Memorial Park, on the site where a non-regulation tee-ball field once stood.
As a matter of public safety, the portion of Trammell Street between Craig and School streets will eventually be permanently closed, according to Mayor Jim Staff, who added that the splash pad would play a dual role in stimulating the local summer economy.
“That’s been my biggest thing from the start,” said the mayor. “Instead of our folks going somewhere else where there’s one of these, people will be coming to Atmore to use ours.”
Staff promised that the facility would be top-notch.
“We’ll have to pave the parking lot, do some landscaping and rehabilitate the bathrooms,” he said. “We’re going to make it nice.”
News photo by Don Fletcher