Almost on cue with the record-high heat smothering Spokane, the city announced plans to reopen splash pads this summer.
Spokane Parks and Recreation said Wednesday, in response to new guidance issued last week by the state Department of Health, it will soon pump water through its 17 splash pads across the city.
“We’ve been working for months with our local and state partners to advocate for eased restrictions on our outdoor splash pads and are thrilled to be able to provide splash pads for our community this summer,” said Fianna Dickson, a parks spokesperson.
Sun-soaked Spokanites are not immediately able to bask in the splash pads’ refreshing glory, but officials say it shouldn’t be long before they’re open to the public.
The city’s aquatic centers also will open for the season, operating under COVID-19 guidelines, later this month.
The splash pads were closed all of last year due to COVID-19 and appeared destined for the same fate in 2021 even as the aquatic centers enjoyed a limited reopening.
Parks and Recreation officials explained that the open nature of a splash pad would make it difficult to enforce COVID-specific rules like social distancing and capacity limits.
But on Monday the state Department of Health announced that splash pads are allowed to fully operate under Phase 3 of Gov. Jay Inslee’s reopening plan. All counties across Washington are in Phase 3, including Spokane.
The state’s announcement means that Spokane Parks will not have to staff every splash pad, which would have been a burden.
“We have 17 splash pads in our system, and it was going to prove very difficult to find staff to monitor the pads, and costly,” Dickson explained. “With limited resources, we’ve been putting all energy into preparing pools to open for the summer.”
The regulations still call for any operator of a water recreation facility to create COVID-related rules, which Spokane Parks officials say they’re in the process of drafting. The splash pads also require a permit from the Spokane Regional Health District and irrigation work before they open.
“We are working diligently to get a handful open this weekend, and the rest opening up over the next few weeks,” Dickson said. “The goal is to have all splash pads open by the end of June.”
Under the state guidelines, those in the wet area of the splash pad will not be required to wear a face mask but must remain physically distanced from others if they are unvaccinated.
In the meantime, the Riverfront Ice Age Floods splash pad is open because Riverfront Park has full-time staff that is able to monitor it.
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