When designing a meaningful place, imagining the role that the elements can play is a valid and exciting design opportunity. Two splash parks in the Dallas, TX, area saw this opportunity and seized it, creating pride of place and expanded usage for two interesting, and different reasons.
Fort Worth Zoo
The Fort Worth Zoo plays host to approximately 1 million visitors a year. With over 7,000 animals in natural habitats the zoo promotes the bond of human and animal through conservation, education, and entertainment. Ticket sales, however, demonstrated that despite the amazing array of opportunities at the zoo, traffic didn’t grow exponentially over summer, a typical time for increased family visitation, because of the extreme southern summer heat.
The zoo engaged a dynamic partnership including, among others, Dunaway Associates as the lead designer, Nader Design as the Building Architect, and Water Odyssey by Fountain People as the supplier of theming, waterslides and a multi-level interactive play structure. Water playground designs, renderings, product cutsheets and specifications of the pad were exchanged between Water Odyssey, Dunaway Associates, and the zoo throughout the development and design process. Edits and revisions ensued until the perfect design was created and approved. The Safari animal-theme was an easy design choice as it fits in perfectly with the zoo atmosphere. Water Odyssey developed a custom 30-foot tall mother and baby giraffe to serve as the splash park’s central feature and set the tone for the safari theme. A safari themed multi-level climbing structure, water spraying animal-themed features, and a large water dump feature are also wildly popular. The water dump provides a 300-gallon 360 degree splash every five minutes, offering excitement, anticipation and cooling water for the entire family. Since opening the splash park, summer guest attendance has skyrocketed and the Zoo is an even more meaningful place for local residents and tourists alike.
Nash-Davis Splash Pad
Also near Dallas is the Nash-Davis Splash Pad. Dunaway Associates and Water Odyssey also played major roles in bringing this site to fruition, with a focus on inclusion. Dunaway conducted community meetings to engage potential users and get their thoughts, ideas, and needs, a key process for any meaningful placemaking project. At one such meeting, the team spoke at length with a parent of a child with physical and cognitive disabilities, gaining valuable insight into how to design the space to ensure that children of all abilities would be able to access, enjoy, and be included in the splash park. Some of those considerations included drainage, slope, and utilizing water features that were not just accessible, but also easy to understand and operate. The team also considered sensory disabilities, offering water activities as simple and small as a bubbler, and moving through a continuum of water volume and pressure to ensure all users had access to features that were fun, comfortable, and confidence-building. This type of sequencing offers ways for children of all abilities to explore and retreat as they feel inclined, and experience more advanced equipment as they feel ready to do so. They also considered older caregivers, and utilized a slip resistant, smooth surface, seating areas, and shade to promote usage and comfort, along with sightlines to ensure caregivers could supervise the children in their care no matter where they were on the pad.