TARPON SPRINGS — Expect a cool, wet summer with sudden downpours and misty conditions.
That's the forecast for the soon-to-be-built Tarpon Springs sprayground — the city's first splash park — featuring a menagerie of marine life to drench boys and girls with chlorinated water.
Admission will be free; giggles are guaranteed.
In November, the City Commission approved a contract with the U.S. Communities Government Purchasing Alliance, a buying cooperative available to cities, to build an aquatic park on the northeast corner of Safford Avenue and Live Oak Street near the Anclote River. The bid award is for $435,369 with a $30,000 contingency.
The sprayground will be situated on approximately 1.5 acres, next to two other city parks, one for adult fitness and the other for dogs. The area is known as the North Safford recreation area and serves as a gateway to the Sponge Docks and downtown area.
"We've got the adults taken care of, the animals taken care of and now the children will be taken care of," City Manager Mark LeCouris said. "It's one stop for all three."
Enthusiasm for the project —- both within Tarpon Springs and beyond — is bubbling over, he said.
"When is it going to be done? When can we use it? That is the predominant question," he said.
LeCouris doesn't have a definite date but said construction is expected to start soon. Barring unforeseen circumstances, he said, the kids will splash in the park before the school year ends.
The aquatic playground will be built by Aquamarine Swimming Pool Co. of Clearwater.
Plans call for mist to drift from underneath a lighthouse as indigenous creature features — a manatee, sponge diver, stingray, tarpon and pelicans resting on a mile marker — serve as fountains of fun. Boat sails will drench children with sheets of water, geysers will gush, and sponges and starfish will shoot water from the sides of a two-lane slide.
"It will definitely have a maritime and Greek flavor because of being on the Anclote River," LeCouris said.
A picnic pavilion and restrooms are also part of the project.
Parents will be happy to know that a Strike Guard lightning protection system will be at work monitoring the skies, shutting down the park when lightning is 5 miles away.
"It's awesome new technology that we jumped on," LeCouris said.
The park will be open during daylight hours with access controlled through magnetic locks.
Since there is no standing water in a splash park, a lifeguard is not necessary.
The splash park is being paid for through Penny for Pinellas and recreation impact fees, LeCouris said.
"This project is a result of many people, many years, many commissions of brainstorming," LeCouris said. "It just all fit in and finally came together."
Terri Bryce Reeves can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.