A Spray Place for Us


Last summer, I experienced the delight of my 20-month old son discovering the sensory heaven of sprayed water at a community spray-park.  He now belongs to the great fraternity of children who have discovered water play and rate it higher than just about any other play activity, (including Play-doh)!

 Our first spray-park visit was free, open to anyone.  No admission fee.  No membership dues.  It was play heaven. Plus, I discovered at the spray-playground, I didn’t worry about my child going in the deep end of the pool or dealing with floaties. The local community had two water parks with slightly varying schedules so that there was one spray-park operating each day of the week and on busy days, we could choose either location. We went 3 times in one week.  My family found a diamond mine of summer fun!


 Now the disappointing news:  I wasn’t anywhere near Smyrna, Georgia.  Each summer, we spend a few weeks near Collierville, a suburb of Memphis, Tennessee.  Collierville reported 43,965 residents in the 2010 census, comparable and even a bit smaller than our beloved town, Smyrna.  Collierville has two relatively new spray-parks both built adjacent to lovely traditional playgrounds.  As a first-time parent, it impressed me  that this small community had included sensory water play as a key feature of their recreational offering.

 Then I discovered another free, spray-park gem in a tiny community.  In traveling to Tennessee, I like to stop midway in Jasper, Alabama (population 13,857) to give ourselves (and our toddler) a break from sitting in the car.   A local hotel clerk in Jasper directed us to a local playground. I was amazed at the size of this playground, and it had a spray-ground!  Happy travel day!   Positioned between two large playground structures, are water spray features including the dumping water bucket towers, “car-wash” style walk-thru play area and multiple ground spray jets.  The Jasper, AL spray-ground stop is now a highlight of our vacations to see “Grandmommy”.


 Reality Sets In . . .

After the joy of witnessing a happy, wet toddler at spray-park heaven; I remembered that our the nearest full-fledged spray-park/playground to Smyrna is a good 25 minute car drive, plus an entrance fee.  Last year we joined the Buckhead YMCA, primarily for indoor swimming and the fabulous outdoor water-activity and wading pool.  The monthly-fee became too much for our budget.  Plus, we have a neighborhood pool, so we dropped it.  The local Tolleson Park spray tower is nice, but just not the same.

 My wonder grows.  Can something like this happen in Smyrna?  To be fair, Jasper is the county seat, so these facilities are likely county-funded.  Still, it is impressive that small towns in places like Jasper, Alabama and Collierville, Tennessee would be so progressive and allocate funds to for spray-features at playgrounds.

It got me thinking.  So, I called the Smyrna Parks and Recreation Department to inquire about the status of spray-parks in our system.  The call was informative and cordial.   I learned that the City of Smyrna’s 10-year Parks and Recreation plan does not include new water spray features at playgrounds.  The Director shared that in the recent community survey conducted in 2013, there were a few questions about water activities which were rated very high in importance by Smyrna residents.  However, these aquatic facilities would necessitate expensive land acquisition and significant building costs. Issues such as parking and traffic congestion would need to be dealt with to support an aquatic facility. In comparison, popular park features such as walking paths, gazebos and shaded areas are less expensive to install and maintain.

 The survey analysis reported on a few questions rating an “indoor aquatic facility and an “outdoor water park” to gauge interest in these types of features.   The results showed great interest in both of these features.  In fact, in the question worded: “I would like the Parks and Recreation Department to add the following things,”;  there was significant interest in “more aquatic facilities” (53.4%) which rated neck-in-neck with the top-rated feature of “more walking trails and paths” (53.8%).

 In another survey question, respondents rated specific features in terms of importance.  Here are the top five features noted as “Very Important” by Smyrna citizen ratings:

  •  Pleasant areas to walk (54.5%)
  •  Indoor aquatic facility (44%)
  •  Natural area preserves (37.5%)
  •  Pavilions, gazebos, shaded areas (33%)
  •  Outdoor water park* (32.2%)

 *The reference to an outdoor water park may have meant something different some of the respondents. For instance a water park may have a water flume attraction and large wave pool.  That’s not really the same as a spray-playground for 2-12 year olds. Also, I rationalize that people rating the walking paths and gazebos so high are probably not trying to fill up 2 hours of playtime to run down children for the afternoon.

 Smyrna has some fabulous playgrounds that make family playtime really wonderful.  I treasure the quality, close proximity and multitude of playgrounds available in Smyrna.   But still, I’d love to see our community come together and add the enhancement of a free spray-ground for all our youngsters to enjoy!

 The good news is that Cobb County has begun work on a spray-park at the Wild Horse Creek Park on Macedonia Road in Powder Springs using SPLOST funds.  In East Cobb, Sewell Park has water spray features that were recently added.  You can check out Cobb Aquatic SPLOST-funded projects on the Cobb County website. 

So, it appears that public, free-admission spray-grounds may be in closer proximity in the next few years.  Until then, our family visits to Grandmother’s house will be even more special.  My son can learn to appreciate the simple water-play I enjoyed as a child – the good old backyard garden hose and the slip-n-slide.  And yes . . . he’ll probably drink from the hose, just like I did when no one was looking.


{About the author: Carol Kleywegt is from Memphis, Tennessee and moved to Atlanta to start her marketing career in 1996 with what used to be the BellSouth Corporation.  She lives in Smyrna, Georgia with her husband and 3-year old son. After working many years in marketing management for technology and software companies, Carol is enjoying raising a family and being active in the community, but she can’t resist the itch to be in business.  She currently works from home, selling children’s books as an independent distributor for Usborne Books and More through her website.}

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    A New Orleans girl turned Georgia peach and stay at home mom to 2 daughters. Before taking the leap into full time mothering, I worked at at an Atlanta-based advertising agency. I have lived in Smyrna for almost 10 years and am still not sure how I managed to find a job more chaotic and unpredictable than advertising.