A cramped mechanical room with rows and coils of pipes and tanks and turbines would seem to be the last place to get the feel for Palm Coast’s new splash park at Holland Park, that 10,000-square-foot festival of run-thru fountains and aquatic creatures surfacing here and there out of Captain Nemo’s imagination.
But if you look closely at the pipes, they tell the story. Each pipe is yellow-tagged with a name: “Spray Loop.” “Magic Mist No. 2.” “Wavy Palm.” “Foaming Geyser No. 2.” “Turtle No. 2/Frog No.1.” “Water Jelly No. 3.” “Cattail.” And so on down a line of dozens of such pipes, each linked the described creature or sculpture on the pad, each used to run its share of the 679 gallons a minute of water that run through the pad from two 3,000-gallon tanks before being recycled.
Children in their bathing suits and squeals pitched to the occasion ran through the jets the moment the (potable) water started gushing around 9:30 this morning. The children were oblivious to what must have looked to them like a strange huddle of unrecognizable men and women, some of them taking selfies, some of them just staring or smiling or taking pictures, all of them just standing there and not getting in.
Your loss, the kids must’ve thought, if they thought of the huddled mass at all. And why should they? As Andy Dance, the former school board member and current county commissioner remembers it, the very first thoughts of a splash pad in Palm Coast go back some 15 years to a concept first presented to the city by Gail Carson, when she called it a “frog park.”
“She had an idea and found me out as a landscape architect,” Dance said, “but she wanted to get a splash pad out here, it started I think with a wooden playground like they have down in Ormond, but then it transitioned to the splash pad. So early on Gail was influential in trying to work with city staff to get a splash pad out here. I can’t remember but I think I put together some color renderings for at the time.”
Contacted this afternoon, Carson said: “I am very happy that this project has come to fruition. Even though things took longer than expected, and it’s too late for my little one who is now almost 17 years old, I am truly happy for all the little ones in our community that this new play place will enrich from this point on. Thank you to all the volunteers who helped me get this idea off the ground, and thank you Milissa Holland for seeing it through.”
The park has since undergone three expansions and renovations (including the splash pad), spanning so many years that a good many people have grown out of traditional splash-pad ages along the way, though Palm Coast Mayor Milissa Holland this morning ended her speech with a quote from George Bernard Shaw: “We don’t stop playing, because we grow old, we grow old, because we stop playing.”
That huddled mass of some 75 people the children eyed with Shaw-worthy indifference had come out to mark the official opening and ribbon-cutting of the $5.1 million addition. “What a glorious day to welcome everyone to this magical place,” said Holland. The park bears the name of her father, one of the founding council members. “So today, as I look across the entirety of James Holland Park, I feel that my father is enjoying this right here alongside of all of us. And he’s grinning broadly because he’s so proud to see his legacy regenerating decades later in our city.”
As Holland spoke under a pavilion the water hadn’t started jetting out just then, but several children were already running around the pad, as if willing the water to start. “We are introducing our splash pad in a place that’s already one of our community’s most popular destinations,” Holland said, referring to the city’s most popular park: on some days, it’s as busy as any big-city park you can imagine, though it also offers more amenities–tennis, basketball, baseball, zipline, shaded bocce ball courts, horseshoe pits, playgrounds, dog park, pavilions, the odd location to go Wordsworth on nature–than any other city park. “It’s your new favorite place to get soaked and scream your head off while 22 colorful sea creatures spray at you with 40 shooting jets. Sounds like fun. You can also cool off in the luxurious shade of tree fronds or using a refreshing outdoor shower.”
Holland Park’s previous renovation, which had kept the park closed for over two years, was completed in spring 2017 at a cost of $4.7 million, and was planned as the first of two major phases. The splash pad was the second phase. “This was paid for by sales tax, meaning the Be Local Buy Local initiative. So visitors helped reinvest in our community, as well as local residents that made incredible decisions to keep their dollars locally to support a local business, keep businesses open, and at the same time keep costs down for the city because we didn’t go into any kind of debt to build this facility.”
Council member Nick Klufas had been part of the majority that had voted for the park’s splash pad two years ago. “I think every dollar that we spend on this park absolutely deserves to be spent here,” he said, “and the smiles on the children’s faces and the parents, the ease of mind to be able to come to a park of this caliber. It’s our flagship park, it’s a tremendous opportunity to have as I brought my father here the other day and he was blown away with the magnitude of this park.”
The city council approved the splash-pad expansion two years ago, but on a 3-2 vote, with Jack Howell and Eddie Branquinho opposed. Today, Branquinho was all smiles through the mist of the jets. “If anybody is depressed, this is the best cure for depression, come over here with your depression, and just look at the kids that will help you cure your depression,” Branquinho, who last year lost his son, said. “By looking at this, it brings the best out in me. It should be able to bring the best out of anybody out there, mean or not mean person. This should be the cure for depression.”
Howell, who resigned from the council for health reasons, was at home today. He said he’d have probably come out to the ribbon-cutting if he’d known about it, or been invited. “I wish them well, it’s a fait accompli, and we’ll see,” Howell said. “We’ll see if the technology has changed from the time I was familiar with up at Hanna Park.” Much of Howell’s opposition was driven by his experience with that park in Jacksonville, where a splash pad was opened, and where he said it became a magnet for injuries and liability.
But it was a concrete pad, and the surrounding grass was actual grass that turned to mud over time. None of that is the case at Holland Park. The pad is made entirely of almost bouncy rubber, absorbing the shock of any slip and fall. The surrounding grass is artificial, evergreen turf. The water isn’t Evian, but close. Howell acknowledged the changes, but still worried about “friction” between older kids who, say, might want to cool off after playing basketball, and younger children in the pad getting bullied.
“We spent all that money and I wish them well, but I know better in the sense that I had a conversation with Lauren Johnston, and a young man with an Australian accent,” Howell said, referring to James Hirst, the city’s outdoors recreation manager. “I said when you operate this thing you’d better have adults out there to manage that situation.”
The park is rimmed with 20 surveillance cameras, but it’s not been anywhere near a magnet for trouble or injuries. Busy as it is, diverse as it is, with people of all ages spread through the grounds, the park’s dynamics operate more like a true, communal city park where the spheres of younger people are implicitly respected, though an unusually high amount of fencing unquestionably helps draw boundaries. Assistant Fire Chief Brad Clark said medical calls to the park are rare, and he doesn’t expect the splash pad to change that. In two previous cities, he said, he’d had experience with splash pads in his career, and in neither place were they a problem. “It’s been a great amenity in the communities that I’ve served before,” Clark said. (Documents provided by Clark indicate that the overwhelming majority of calls to the park’s address were related to vehicle accidents or incidents unrelated to children or people in the park.)
“There’s not a place like this in any county near us,” Jill Woolbright, the school board member, said. “I mean this is almost like a resort.”
Gina Weiss says
Congratulations Mayor Holland and to all who had taken this to fruition. HAPPY DANCE AND HAPPY DAYS IN PALM COAST! Please add a few splash pads to our future planned park in Quail Hollow our young ones here would love it.
I don’t want a splash pad in Quail Hollow unless it includes float planes
Gina Weiss says
Bob stop trolling. And I will see to it that those float planes have ADS-B transmitters on them.
Did you say 5.1 million, boy someone has deep pockets and likes to spend money!
Oh boy public bathing at it finest.
Hope someone thought long and hard on this one, thats where your taxes are going geeze
What a tremendous accomplishment – only a $5.1 MILLION addition!! What does this ‘addition’ bring the taxpayer’s total costs for Holland Park since they started construction on it in 2003? Maybe now can they start working on the antiquated swale and drainage systems in Palm Coast?
Dennis C Rathsam says
God forbid a real sewer system, NA theyed rather send a crew out all year to play with them. And what would they do without the pollywoggs, snakes,stagnent water full of bugs, in the swales 1/2 the year….TO SAY NOTHING OF THE SMELL!!!!!
BETTER GLAD THAN SAD says
Well look who we have here the same Dennis C Rathsam who thought that the recent aggressive behavior by an individual at a city meeting towards our Mayor was hunky dory! You would not do well in NY and other areas of the country where you will pay more than quadruple these taxes for poorer sewer systems that constantly backup, E-Coli in the drinking water, and not to mention the rodent infestations in people’s backyards.
That’s only part of the problem, how long until the pedophiles & graffiti/vandalism shows up there ? FCSO needs to stay on top of that, I think they will, but we’ll still read about it.
POLLYWOGGS, SNAKES AND BUGS OH MY! “We’re off to see the splashpads the wonderful splashpads of Palm Coast because because because because BECAUSSSSSSE of what a wonderful thing it is ,the wonderful splashpads of Holland Park”
Yea good luck with that. I was told point blank by the swale department supervisor that they are not going to do anything to fix the swale problem throughout the city. So basically the city council will waste our tax money on things that satisfy a small group of residents instead of ALL the residents. The next biggest waste of tax dollars is going to the new tennis stadium. These tax money wasting council members need to go. I guess the wasted splash play ground was put in Holland Park because her families name is on it. At this point why not add a small amusement park to the Holland Park. What a joke.
Percy's mother says
There is no widespread “Swale problem” throughout Palm Coast. Perhaps in YOUR particular section or street, but it’s not widespread.
SASHAY AWAY says
These people should have done their due diligence before buying their homes where there are ” swale problems” LOL!
Debbie Downer says
Hi Percy’s mother, Let’s take a moment to dedicate this song to all these whiners on here. CRY ME A RIVER”
Yes there is, maybe not in your area, but should see the standing water in my front yard, I can actually kayak in my front, poor civil engineering
Maybe you need to tell the swale director that, because he told me there was but there was no plans to fix it.
THE PEANUT GALLERY says
TR: Comment section now closed stop being late for the party!
Well its already a done deal money spent so, have fun a great addition to the already beautiful Park. ENJOY
SPLISH SPLASH says
My Italian grandmother had a great saying, “PEOPLE WILL CRY WITH A LOAF OF BREAD UNDER BOTH ARMS”, you talk as if the 5 mil. came straight out of your own pockets! You don’t speak for all of us taxpayers here and many of us love this amenity for our families to enjoy. You all need to chill out and and maybe take a walk under one of those splash pads unless of course you have pools in your backyard and a public park for all to enjoy is too below your standards.
Mary Fusco says
Splish Splash, I think this is very nice and I wish we had something like this when my grandchildren were young and were visiting. However, a splash park is for young kids. Not too many preteens are interested in running through showers and if they are, it is detrimental to younger kids. I think it would have been better to divide the $5 million and make something available for kids a little older also. BTW, I don’t have a pool, I took my grandchildren to this park 20 years ago and it was periodically vandalized, especially the bathrooms. When my grandkids wanted to swim, we went to Frieda Zamba. When my kids were young, they played at public parks and we had the cement version of a splash pad. Hard to vandalize that. LOL. I just hope they have city employees monitoring activities because the first kid that gets hurt, the lawsuit will be coming down the pike.
SPLISH SPLASH says
Hi Mary, These pads are made out of a bouncy rubber not concrete which makes a fall not as bad if one fell on concrete. I also think there needs to be much more amenities for our children at different ages, especially as more and more families move here, maybe a roller rink or some kind of inside arcade. Anyway I can’t see how this can be more dangerous than taking a child to a public pool or to the beach cause bottom line you have to monitor your child no matter where you go some people are just sue happy no matter what the situation. As far as the potential for vandalism a whole community shouldn’t be deprived because of some rotten apples which can happen anywhere you live.
The Voice Of Reason says
Mayor Holland and her supporters, great job! This is a fantastic addition to a wonderful park. Nothing better than seeing joy in the faces of children. And what a wonderful relief for kids on hot summer days of which we have plenty. Between our bike trails and parks, Palm Coast has done a great job with recreation.
And we can only water our lawn 2 times per week? Our sprinklers go right back into to ground and maybe only loose 5% to evaporation.
THE GAY RANCHER says
These are all just cheap talking whining individuals wouldn’t be happy if a fairy godmother came down here singing somewhere over the rainbow and shoved a pocketful of miracles up their butts!
With sparkles …..Lol that made me laugh
Very Impressed says
Kudos to the powers that be who have pushed this project through to completion. As A Previous resident of F section who could walk to the park in ’17 (And was very impressed then!) Now in C and drive by every day and invariably concede to my 9 year old daughter who wants to slide down the hill and ride the zip line. What a fantastic park. I continue to be impressed w/ Mr. Klufas, I admit I was initially skeptical of his youth, but he has proven himself to be a forward and reasonable thinker on multiple issues and I will certainly vote for him again. I met briefly and voted for Mr. Branquino, and was disappointed to learn later of his opposition to the public amenities, but perhaps now he might change his tune. One only needs to go to the park, there is a magic there, smiling faces on both parents and kids alike. I admit, I can jam out a good tune on the Really amazing Xylaphone! I have lived in a lot of places in my years but Ive never seen anything like this outside of an expensive Orlando theme park, beyond the reach of so many. It is certainly the crown Jewel of Palm Coast!
SMILEY FACE says
What a great idea, yes music in the park lets celebrate away all the negativity that we have been through and make this our happy place! There is a lot of talent out here I bet.
Roads are crap, lights need timing, no senior center, and millions for a money loosing tennis center. You people have lost your minds.
Gina Weiss says
Hey Dennis, did you ever run through a sprinkler on a hot summer day in a public park when you were a kid, if not you really missed out. I remember it well, the sweet smell of summer, the cold water running through my hair, exercising running back and forth trying to beat out the water and the best of all seeing all the other children’s smiling faces in between the drops of water as we splashed our happy feet socializing with our peers. You see Dennis this water park we were gifted is more than just a splash park, it’s making memories for families and their children, taking fun pictures with our loved ones, uniting our community by making new friendships. I think Mayor Hollands splash park gift to us is worth more than the money it cost. You can’t buy or put a price on happiness, all those little smiling faces are PRICELESS!
Are masks required in the splash park?
Masks are not required on city properties. Snorkels optional.
Gina Weiss says
I think we should all show some love to Dennis and take Dennis to the Holland splash park and all hold hands with him and just RUN in the water, I bettcha he would LOVE it! What do ya say Dennis come out and play you’re as young as you feel. Forever Young by Rod Stewart Live 1992 you tube youtube.com
The city has done a really excellent job improving Holland Park. Up until recently, I have always thought of Waterfront Park as my favorite city park, and although I still love the serenity and scenic beauty there along the waterway, I have to give the city planners credit for their design and implementation of what truly is a showcase of a city park at Holland. There is something for just about everyone there, and it is so nice to see kids, families, dog lovers, and others enjoying themselves outdoors at this city park. Now, let’s all do our part to take care of this Palm Coast treasure!