TARPON SPRINGS — Getting soaked, squirted or squealed upon was all part of a day's fun at the new splash park in Tarpon Springs.
"I'm dumping buckets of water all over my sister," chortled Delaney Williams, 9.
The new spray ground opened at the northeast corner of Live Oak Street and Safford Avenue, next to the city's dog park, on June 28.
The city plans to spend about $600,000 for the splash park and new restrooms.
But it's all free at the door.
On opening day, little mermaids and sea captains ran under waterfalls, sat on bubbling fountains, and enjoyed the massage of jet sprays, all while keeping the moms, dads or grandparents abreast of the day's developments.
"I went down the slide on my belly," said Koltin Savage, 5.
"A stingray sprayed water out of its mouth at me," said his little brother, Trygg Savage, 3.
Dunedin and Oldsmar have similar splash parks, and Largo has a splash area in its Highland Family Aquatic Center.
Tarpon Springs has packed its park with Greek- and maritime-themed structures, including a manatee, tarpon, pelican, sponge diver and the centerpiece, a lighthouse (to mimic the Anclote Key lighthouse). The park is best suited for toddlers and elementary school-age students, but many parents get in on the fun, too. Four shade canopies with benches underneath help onlookers keep cool.
"We've been thinking about this for four or five years, and it's everything we envisioned and more," City Manager Mark LeCouris said.
A Strike Guard lightning protection system monitors the skies and shuts down the water in the park when lightning is within five miles. LeCouris said people have called in to report the system isn't working.
"I tell them: If it shuts down, look at the sky," he said.
The park is open daily, year-round from 10 a.m. until dusk.
"I just love this place!" said Abigail Allen, 9, of New Port Richey. "You get to play outdoors in the sun with your whole family."
Her mother, Lisa Bahr, who donned a bathing suit and sat beneath a gushing geyser, seemed to enjoy the refreshing cascade of water as much as her daughter. And she liked that the spray ground seemed safer and more sanitary than a traditional swimming pool.
"You can relax a little more this way," she said.
"Yeah, there's no urine in the water," Abigail added.
Leah Blaisdell, 48, said she'd like to see more free splash parks around the area.
"It's our first time being here and I think it's absolutely fabulous. This has brought the community together in a cool and safe environment."
Nancy Rhoads, 71, sat in the shade and watched her grandson Noah play.
"He's having such a good time, it's going to be hard to get him out of here."