Members of the Crookston School Board on Monday gave their blessing to efforts underway to make Crookston home to a "zero depth pool" for children, more commonly known as a splash park, even if it ends up being located in a city park or somewhere else in town, and not on the Crookston Community Swimming Pool property, which the school district owns.
"If you want to do this project, hats off to you and good luck, wherever it takes you," board chair Frank Fee told Shirley Seddon Iverson and Ann Longtin after they presented their plans to the board.
Off and on over the years, as the school district and city continue to come up with equal amounts of money each year to balance the pool's budget – around $66,000 each this year – the possibility of boosting pool revenue by opening a splash park has been mentioned. But, with the new splash park group envisioning an amenity that's free of charge, board members aren't interested in adding a single penny to the pool's annual operating deficit through larger water bills and maintenance costs that would come with a splash park.
"We're losing money at the pool already, so it would have to be no cost to us whatsoever for us to even look at it there," Fee said.
A splash park is included in the pool's five to 10-year strategic plan, Pool Manager Ken Stromberg said, but that doesn't mean one at the pool site – the school district owns a large piece of property adjacent to the pool – has gone anywhere beyond a casual mention now and then.
Splash park proponents prefer the growing Castle Park for their new attraction. Seddon Iverson said the new natural play space, forest trails and early childhood playground equipment in Castle Park – located on the fringes of Sampson's Addition – make it a potentially ideal location. The park is already home to the dog park, and the city is planning to add a shelter and ranger station later this year in Castle Park, Seddon Iverson said, in advance of the city's long-range plan to move its city campground from Central Park to Castle Park.
"This would make Castle Park even more of a premier, one-stop location," she said.
Asked by board member Tim Dufault if they'd surveyed families with children on where they might like the splash park to go, Longtin said they hadn't. "I think the best place is where there is the most for children to do, and Castle Park is that place," she said. "Families could come and stay awhile because there is so much for children to do there."
Page 2 of 2 - The splash park group is consulting with Grand Forks officials, where two splash parks in GF city parks are to be joined by a third, located at Choice Fitness, later this year. The Crookston group is hoping to raise up to $200,000 this year to build a splash park here, which would likely feature water on a timer that would simply flow into the city's sewer system instead of being recycled and reused, which is more expensive. Longtin said it's estimated that annual water and maintenance costs would approach $7,000.
They've looked at potential private property locations, too, and Highland Park is another possibility, Longtin said. It comes in second to Castle Park, however, she said, because Highland Park attracts an older crowd that comes to play softball and skate in the skateboard park.
"We are dedicated and determined to get this done," Seddon Iverson said. "We think it's very important to the community and the families in the community. Everyone we've talked to, no matter what location, feels very strongly about this."
Prior to the splash park presentation, the board OK'ed a $1,250 grant that Melissa Dingmann has secured from the Northwest Minnesota Arts Council for a tile mural that will be mounted in a hallway inside the swimming pool entrance.
But, while acknowledging that they realize the members of the Crocs swim team and Pirate girls' swim team, working alongside two artists who have led similar ventures in other communities, won't come up with any mural designs that are "inappropriate," board members nonetheless asked if they could see the mural design before it's mounted.
Dingmann said she'll send the design to board members before it's mounted. But, she added, it's a fairly unique process, with the students and artists scheduled to spend several hours together this Thursday crafting the designs that will make up the four large tiles, before the tiles are glazed, placed in the kiln and fired as part of a process that will take a couple weeks.
"It's very much a student-driven experience, under the artists' guidance," she said. "The artists have worked with youth and children before, so I would assume it's going to be appropriate."
"I'm sure it won't be objectionable," board member Keith Bakken responded. "We would just like to view it before it's actually installed."