Fuquay-Varina Mayor John Byrne wants to make sure everybody knows this fact about the town's splash pad: It wouldn't be here if moms in town didn't tell him they wanted one.
"This is a result of the moms saying what they want here in town," he said.
A splash pad was among the popular requests, Byrne said, during his own discussions with town residents, especially those with young families. That feedback mirrored an official town survey last year, which sought residents' input on the town's park needs. In that survey, nearly a quarter of respondents said they wanted a splash pad.
Instead of taking years and town budget cycles to build the outdoor water playground, Fuquay-Varina's Board of Commissioners got to work, accelerating the construction to ensure that kids could enjoy a place to cool off this summer. The 6,000-square-foot splash pad opened Wednesday at South Park on South Main Street to a huge crowd. It's now open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., daily, through Labor Day. Admission is free.
Byrne tells me town officials saw a need and responded, working to serve the many young families that are moving into the town. Fuquay-Varina is North Carolina's fastest growing town with 20,000 or more residents. According to the U.S. Census, the town grew 18 percent between 2010 and 2013. About 30 percent of the town's 21,000 residents are under the age of 18. Nearly 10 percent are under age 5.
"In Fuquay-Varina, we're trying to focus on the entire community," Byrne said. "We have a tremendous amount of young families moving in here and they need a spot like this."
The splash pad features more than three dozen jets of shooting water and devices that spray, shoot or dump water on you. A big favorite will be the giant bucket, which, when filled, dumps gallons of water on eager kids waiting below. (The water used in the splash pad will be recycled and used to irrigate the ball fields at South Park).
The water doesn't continuously run. When it's not in use, the splash pad will shut off. But there are two buttons - one on the pretend railroad crossing sign in the splash pad and another on the ground on the other side of the pad, that allow users to turn it on. Town staff also will be onsite to help. The surface is designed to not get hot or slippery for little feet (though water shoes are recommended).
While the splash pad has opened, work isn't done at South Park. A permanent fence will go up around the pad in the next week or so. Crews will start construction on a picnic shelter, which will sit right next to the splash pad, soon. The shelter should be complete next month. Right now, there's not much seating near the splash pad. Town staff tell me that they expect parents will bring lawn chairs when they come.
In the fall, the town plans to take down the existing playground, which also sits next to the splash pad, and install a new one. The new playground will be a little bigger than the one at the park now.
The playground's design isn't complete, but I'm told that it will likely include newer features that are different from the standard play set combination of slides and monkey bars. The new one will likely include pieces that spin kids around and ropes to climb, for instance. Different sections will be designed for kids ages 2 to 5 and 5 to 12. The new playground should open in October or November.
Byrne said the town put the splash pad at South Park for a reason. The 25-acre park sits near the center of town and off Judd Parkway, which loops around much of the town. It's even possible to take public transit from Raleigh and other locations to the splash pad (though it might be a long trip). There's a bus stop nearby.
I've gotten a few emails and questions on Facebook about the new splash pad. I do know some moms with early risers would love for it to open earlier than 11 a.m. Susan Weis, the town's public information officer, tells me that they do understand the concerns, but will stick with the opening time this year as they figure out attendance and how it's going to work. And an answer to another question I've fielded: Birthday rentals won't be available this year.
But that shouldn't stop thousands of kids from having a great time at this spot this summer and years from now. Fuquay-Varina has built a destination.
The splash pad is at South Park, 900 S. Main St., in Fuquay-Varina. Bathrooms are located next to the splash pad and playground. A large parking lot also is right next to the splash pad. An earlier post lists the rules and recommendations if you go.
Go Ask Mom features places to take kids every Friday. For more, check our posts on parks and playgrounds and Triangle family destinations. Our public pool database lists the locations for other public pools and splash pads, also called spraygrounds, in the region.