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A splash pad is an area for water play that has no standing water. This is said to eliminate the need for lifeguards or other supervision, as there is little risk of drowning. Splash pads have existed in the commercial industry for decades.
Typically there are ground nozzles that spray water upwards out of the splash pad's raindeck. There may also be other water features such as a rainbow (semicircular pipe shower), a mushroom shower, or a tree shower. As well, some splash pads feature movable nozzles similar to those found on fire trucks to allow users to spray others.
The showers and ground nozzles are often controlled by a hand activated-motion sensor, to run for limited time. Typically the water is either freshwater, or recycled and treated water, that is typically treated to at least the same level of quality as swimming pool water standards.
Splash pads having zero depth standing water
Many aquatic play features are based around splash pads which have approximately zero depth standing water, resulting in reduced drowning risks, such that they are often acceptably run as unsupervised aquatic play areas.
These splash pads are often surfaced in textured non-slip concrete or in crumb rubber.
Many splash pads are designed to appeal to young children, but a more recent trend has been to design similar spaces that include more sophisticated aquatic play features that appeal to adults as well. For example, the hydraulophone, a musical instrument, similar to a flute or pipe organ, but in which sound is produced by water jets, is an aquatic play feature that appeals to people of all ages including adults and senior citizens, as well as children. An example of this civic form of aquatic play can be found in TELUSCAPE Hydraulophone, the Ontario Science Centre's centerpiece. Like many splash pads, this piece is circular, with various water pipes rising up from the ground, but each of the pipes is an organ pipe, part of a large outdoor pipe organ that can be played by interfering with the flow of water through the jets of a hydraulophone.
More generally, these urban beaches (urbeaches), each form an urban oasis designed so that waterplay is among one of its various usages. Although not limited to waterplay, an urbeach is multi-purpose.
Various kinds of spray to appeal to all ages
Many splash pads have some features such as fine mist, that are designed to be moderate enough for children. Other splash fountains are designed for adults, e.g. for joggers or concert goers to cool off in. The splash fountain in Toronto's city centre, Dundas Square, features 600 spray nozzles that shoot water straight up through stainless steel grilles set right in the middle of the main walkway. The nozzles rise and fall in unison, like the waves on a beach, so that there are times when the water level is low enough for children to also play in the water. The heights of all the fountains rise and fall in unison, in a sinusoidally time varying manner, to create the atmosphere of an urban beach.
The Dundas Square fountains are maintained to a high quality of cleanliness ("pool water or better" standards, according to the maintainers of the facility) because, unlike most city center fountains, these were designed for waterplay. Special nonslip granite slabs were installed to ensure the safety of children and adults alike. Although there are changerooms at level P1 (the parking garage directly under Dundas Square), many people splash spontaneously, without having planned a trip in advance, therefore not having brought a bathing suit. People simply take off their shirts and shoes, roll up their pant legs, and run through. Thus, as is typical of urbeach changing facilities, only one sixth of the washroom space is devoted to use for changing, and the men's and women's washrooms/changerooms in total only comprise six parking spaces worth of space in P1. The architects even had to go to great lengths to justify the use of six revenue-generating parking spots for a facility that does not, in itself, generate revenue.
List of urbeaches available for public use
- Dundas Square, located at Yonge and Dundas streets in the heart of downtown Toronto
- Ontario Science Centre in Toronto Teluscape, North Nessie (12-jet hydraulophone) and South Nessie (45-jet hydraulophone).
NEW YORK, UNITED STATES
- New York's Christopher Street Pier (Pier 45)
PENNSYLVANIA, UNITED STATES
OREGON, UNITED STATES
- Jamison Square: On a busy summer day, Jamison Square in Portland's Pearl District draws people of all ages from all parts of the city.