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New sprayground in Dunedin called "funner" than a pool

DUNEDIN

The city's new aquatic playground, the Kiwanis Sprayground, is colorful, interactive and buckets of fun.

It's free, too.

"It's the most popular place in town," said Peg Cummings," the city's recreation division director.

"It's funner than a pool," declared Joshua Kimble, 7.

The city opened the sprayground in Highlander Park on July 2 and it has been flooded with youngsters ever since. Though most parents sit on the sidelines, either in the sun or under awnings, a few bathing suit-clad moms and dads have gotten in on the action.

Jim Gibbs of Dunedin parked himself under a cooling spray bench while his daughters frolicked with friends. "It's great," he said. "You can sit here and cool off while your kids play."

The splash pad boasts 3,000 square feet of nonslip play area with plenty of whimsical sprayers that squirt, dump, gush and shoot water.

The little ones can hang out under a giant jellyfish while the water cascades around them or get soaked by a friendly alligator or dolphin.

There are water cannons, floor jets, a slide and a big yellow bucket that fills up, tips over, and drenches those who stand under it.

"I love it," said Teagan Dubois, 7. "It feels so relaxing to have all this cold water coming down on you."

"It hurts a little if you're on your stomach or back — just enough to be fun," said Takaya Lloyd, 12.

One of the highlights is Nessie the Loch Ness Monster, located in the center of the splash pad and sporting dozens of spray holes.

"Nessie was a take on Dunedin's Scottish heritage," explained Vince Gizzi, Dunedin's parks and recreation director.

Gizzi came to the city from Fort Lauderdale, where he oversaw the building of four spraygrounds and witnessed their popularity.

"After we built the first one, I saw that there were 60 to 80 kids at the sprayground and only three or four kids in the pool," he said.

He said city pools are still important for those wanting to exercise and learn how to swim, but said that spraygrounds were the latest aquatic trend.

Oldsmar built a smaller sprayground, which has proven to be immensely popular.

Dunedin commissioners debated whether to build the amenity during tough economic times, but in the end, the price was right. The city obtained a $200,000 state recreation grant and the Kiwanis Club of Dunedin chipped in another $50,000. The city's share was $150,000.

The spray park, built by Aquamarine Swimming Pool Co. of Clearwater, is handicap accessible and features a special detector that shuts down the water when lightning is within 5 miles of the park.

About 4,000 gallons of chlorinated city water are filtered and recirculated. When the park is empty, an activator shuts down the water supply. It turns it on again when motion is detected.

The park will accommodate up to 90 people. There are no lifeguards, so parental supervision is required. (Parents, please don't forget those swim diapers for the toddlers!) Restrooms, parking, picnic shelters, a dry playground and the Highlander pool are all just steps away.

Alice Bookman, 47, said her family would be staying home this summer, foregoing their usual vacation to Sea World, due to the economy.

But she's not singing the summertime blues.

"This is beautiful," she said, soaking wet in her swim suit. "It's our own little Sea World. I'm having as much fun as they are."

Kiwanis Sprayground

Where: Highlander Park at 1937 Ed Eckert Drive off Michigan Boulevard.

Hours: Open daily from 9 a.m. to sundown.

Bring: Towels, sunscreen, folding chairs and hats.

Call: (727) 812-4530 for more information.

New sprayground in Dunedin called "funner" than a pool 07/09/09 [Last modified: Thursday, July 9, 2009 9:33pm]
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