To say there were difficulties with the town’s splash park this year would be an understatement, but there is room to move forward.
That, according to a report provided at Ponoka town council’s Nov. 13 meeting, will take plenty of work and may well cost a good chunk of change to repair.
Wes Amendt, town director of community services, presented what amounted to a post-mortem on the troubles that began from the moment the splash park was started up on the May long weekend.
The problems, which are well-documented in the minds of Ponoka residents, included numerous and lengthy shutdowns of the park along with water quality issue, slow staff response and a lack of knowledge of the system.
“There were many challenges last summer,” Amendt noted to council, “Typically, we open May long through Labour Day, but we went straight from winter to summer and didn’t have a normal, gradual spring transition.”
That led to breaks in several lines as well as within the sand filters, which led to various other issues within the system.
“In speaking to the consultant from Play Quest, Curtis Giesbrecht, he has never seen this situation ever before and suggested the possible cause was ice chunks being forced through and breaking the pipes. This resulted in sand flowing through the entire system.”
That was the first of many blows the splash park took, while the rest of the season was plagued by system alarms and failure of other parts that shut down the summer playground during its most popular times.
Amendt noted in the report — compiled by Aquaplex operator Charlotte Williams — that the system as well as staff struggled at times to keep up with the demands being placed on them, especially on the very hot days.
“Staff weren’t always available to answer calls to the splash park, due to not enough staff at the pool or not enough time during their day,” he stated, adding most of the available staff had not worked with the system before.
“I also think some of the problems experienced came due to the change from liquid to granular chemical products as well as the changes in staff we experienced.”
The switch came this year for a couple of reasons — the products are the same as the pool uses plus they are both safer for staff and have a longer shelf life. However, due to an inability to get consistent water chemistry, the system had to be placed in manual mode quite often which meant a great possibility of system failures from going dry to wide chemical imbalances that could be dangerous.
That led to another issue — the lack of readily available parts when the inevitable repairs became necessary.
“With each breakdown, there were no spare parts, which meant waiting or driving to Edmonton to pick up the parts,” noted the report.
Amendt outlined many of the reports recommendations — from having a parts inventory, improved maintenance and staff training to adjusting the system’s start-up time and moving back to liquid chemicals — would help better operate the present system.
However, a move to a flow-through system — which would use treated town water — was suggested as an alternative to potentially costly and disruptive breakdowns.
Some vague estimates of the cost to upgrade the splash park was presented, but Mayor Rick Bonnet suggested Amendt come back to council during 2019 budget discussions with more concrete figures and ideas to recapture and re-use the water in the flow-through model before any decisions are made.