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An opinion: Mommy reporter from Weber County

Article Date: 
20 July, 2012 (All day)

It’s taken years from the time this splash pad was first mentioned to the day the water was turned on and officially named the Morgan City Riverside Splash Pad.  I know; I’ve written at least four articles about Morgan’s splash pad in the last two years and edited six just since May.  
I could regurgitate facts that have already been published such as Morgan’s splash pad is the largest in square feet (70 feet by 70 feet) than any of the other six in Northern Utah.  Some reports claim it is the second biggest in the state.  Of the seven splash pads in Northern Utah, only Morgan’s and Harrisville’s are closed on Sundays.  
So far, Morgan’s splash pad has cost $160,000, which is a relatively good deal because of currently decreased construction costs in today’s economy. Unlike other Northern Utah splash pads, Morgan’s splash pad was funded by contributions rather than city and county tax payer dollars.  The city has agreed to pay the $10,000 to $12,000 annually to maintain and clean the splash pad.  
Frankly, I’m tired of writing news about the splash pad.  At this point, I would rather share my opinion about the splash pad, or at least my childrens’ opinions.  How could a mommy reporter go to cover the opening of a splash pad without bringing her children?  
Morgan City Councilwoman Shelly Betz and Mayor Jim Egbert conducted a short opening ceremony mentioning many of the major donors.  I could mention them all here, but it would have more of a visual impact if you just visited the splash pad and read all the signs on or near the 26 features.  
While the ribbon cutting ceremony was great, the real stars of the show were all the kids dressed in water attire waiting for the water to turn on.  Many of them were in leis provided by the city, and even gave up on getting a root beer float because they were so excited to be in the water.  The kids were the real reason the splash pad was constructed, so it was fitting that so many children were on hand for the ceremony.  Many children even stretched the ribbon while the mayor cut it.
“The children of the community will benefit from this for many years,” Egbert said.  
I have been to other splash pads, but I have never known the name of some of the features.  With names like palm tree, water bucket, gusher, double puddle jumper, blast off, weeping willow, blow hole, and lil’ spider, how could kids not be excited to visit this new splash pad?
My kids gave the features names of their own.  My son liked the “car wash” feature.  He felt like a car going through the car wash, or in this case an orange-ish, red semi-circle spritzing water on him.  He was also impressed by the tall green palm tree and tall yellow flower.
My daughter liked the “umbrella,” so named because the water came out of the top of a shaft in the shape of an umbrella.
I had heard that the parents and grandparents who sat on an advisory committee to design the splash pad considered the dumping water bucket feature a top priority.  Not too surprising that a group of Morgan moms and a separate group of Morgan grandparents each paid for one of the pad’s features.
Although there are 26 water features, not all 26 are active at the same time.  When someone activates the splash pad by pushing a bollard, a computerized program runs select features at certain times.  The program will eventually run through all 26.  At the end of the cycle, the water will not turn on again unless the bollard is activated.  It keeps things interesting, and cuts down on water use if the splash pad is vacant.
 “This is a huge, big deal,” for the 2,300 to 2,500 children under the age of 14 in the county, Betz said.
She wasn’t kidding.  I grew up in Morgan, so I know the recreational opportunities (or lack thereof) in the county available to youth.  I now live in Weber County, and many of my neighbors want to make the 30 minute trip to Morgan to see this new splash pad.  Splash pads are a draw, no matter where you live.  People will come to Morgan just for the splash pad; I personally know of dozens.
And that’s something Betz is hoping for.  It will create much needed, additional foot traffic for Morgan businesses such as gas stations and the grocery store.  Betz estimates that potential financial revenue produced by Morgan’s splash pad visitors could be as much as $42,000 for area businesses each year.
“That’s a lot of foot traffic, and can be the difference for some businesses from succeeding and having to close the doors,” she said.
What I like about Morgan’s splash pad is that it is nestled near two other playgrounds.  It would be easy for a mom to watch her kids at all three from one location.  I did notice, however, that there is not a lot of shade right near the splash pad and playgrounds for moms to enjoy.  But thanks to a grant, three pavilions are already on order, and trees will be planted in the fall.  The pavilions will be perfectly  placed in the middle of the splash pad and playgrounds.
Betz said there is still about $10,000 left to raise in order to complete the project.  There are still some lonely, unclaimed water features in need of a donor.
Pony up, Morgan.  That’s not much more in the whole scheme of things, especially when it will benefit the children of the community and draw more people to this great town.  Morgan is the next best place for children to participate in good, old fashioned exercise disguised as play.
I just hope Morgan doesn’t run into other problems that other cities have experienced with their splash pads.  Mostly that would be lack of parking due to the unforecasted popularity of the water features, complaints about noise from the neighbors, graffiti, damage, and litter.  Betz said striping Riverside Park’s parking area would allow for up to 144 parking spots.  I’m thinking the city may just need all those spots, especially on hot summer days.
May I mention that there is also a skate park close to Morgan’s splash pad? Wheeled contraptions like skate boards, scooters, heelies, etc. could pose major risks to the in-ground features of the splash pad.  Betz called on the community as a whole to help police the city’s rule prohibiting such wheeled contraptions.
It may not be a swimming pool rivaling Como Springs of the past, but Morgan is definitely moving up in the world with its new splash pad.