It's important to keep in mind that funding for a Splashpad in Springfield has already been included in the Municipality's five year capital plan. As community recreation amenities, splashpads can be quite appealing:
- Not all families have a cottage to go to in the summer, nor do all families get continuous holiday breaks during the hotter months;
- A splashpad is far and away more economical and efficient (from a capex perspective) than an indoor pool; and
- As an amenity, it would provide a place for families to meet and greet, thus enhancing and fostering a sense of community.
Overall, then, there seem to be lots of positives and $400,000 already contained in the 5-year capital plan. So what's next? In my view, there are two big questions to consider if we want to get a project like this right:
- Where will it be placed? To me, this is a far more important question than whether to even develop the splashpad itself. The location should be where future recreational attractions/amenities will ultimately be developed (e.g., fields, tracks, diamonds, recreation centres). Building a great splashpad in the wrong location could be a waste of resources.
- Who will pay (and how) for the maintenance and operating costs? Based on similar splashpads in other towns, what is the annual operating cost? Unlike, for instance, the aquatic park in Transcona, user pay revenue models (designed to offset operational costs) will not be possible because most splashpads are not fenced, thus negating any meaningful calculation of IRR and ARR. It will mean the ongoing costs are likely to be borne by the RM. As such, and based on experience elsewhere, what is the proportional amount we can expect a splashpad to contribute to our annual Recreation and Cultural Services budget? Further, is the project still viable from a net present value perspective given the initial construction cost, rate of depreciation (i.e., asset management) and replacement cost?
The splashpad debate is illustrative of the desire by many in Oakbank (and the wider municipality) to see more robust recreation facilities. Let's be sure to take the time to get it right, which will make future recreational planning easier, efficient and inclusive.