OPINION

Leavenworth county can benefit from splash parks

Matt Nowak

Two of my favorite cities are Portland, Oregon, and Stuttgart, Germany, mostly because they both have plenty of quality-of-life amenities like parks of all sizes spread throughout both cities and nearby towns and lots of walking trails or wide sidewalks through residential areas. I'm pretty sure that there are similar amenities in many Johnson County cities and that is a major reason for their popularity for home ownership.

Matt Nowak

One other significant addition to many parks in Portland, and even just within the downtown area itself, are the many shallow waterfall fountains and splash parks where kids can play and stay cool in the summer. They are not elaborate facilities in many cases. Sometimes it is just an area where water jets shoot up and the water never pools deep enough to harm anyone. It just runs back into the system.

I assume that there could be concerns about the safety of the water if kids try to drink it, but apparently they have taken care of those issues in Portland because splash parks are everywhere as part of playgrounds. It is better than trying to police kids and keep them out of beautiful public fountains that often have shallow pools as part of the fountains like they do in Kansas City.

I have seen photos of dozens of kids climbing over these fountains and I can understand the concern, especially if those fountains also have electric lights embedded in the pools. It would be much better to invest in many more small splash parks spread out in the neighborhoods where the kids live.

There is no doubt that a city full of concrete and asphalt is a heat island and has higher temperatures than out in the country and those summer temperatures can cause discomfort and make people irritable which can lead to problems like climbing into fountains.

We don't have any large city fountains of which I am aware in any Leavenworth County cities, but we do suffer from summer heat like anywhere else. Splash parks would only need to operate for a few months in the hottest part of the summer to serve their main purpose of bringing relief, but they could operate longer just as a piece of functional art at least when the temperatures are above freezing.

Assuming that the world continues to warm up, I think that we could also assume that our cities will get warmer and both humans and pets will need to keep cool to stay healthy. If people have a choice of where to live, they are likely to choose cities and neighborhoods with the best schools first.

The next big factor, especially for those without kids, is the availability of those quality-of-life amenities like walking trails and, as it gets hotter, splash parks. As a matter of fact, you don't even need to get wet in a splash park to get cooler. Just the fact that there is water splashing nearby cools the air and makes people feel more comfortable.

Obviously, you want a little room for yourself for contemplation, so it really is a good idea to have multiple splash parks spread throughout any city where it gets hot enough to need one so that people can spread out, too.

I know that people prefer to walk with their kids to such parks, but I also know that people will drive miles to find the best parks just because they are so good for the kids and people like to meet up with friends and make new friends at these parks. We met a really nice family from Russia at our last trip to Portland at a local park. If we lived there we would probably meet them regularly with the kids at the park.

I think that keeping people cool and comfortable in the summer is a good thing to do for the people who live here and it encourages people to get outside in the fresh air, too. I'm all for more parks and splash parks in our neighborhoods.

Matt Nowak is a retired natural resources specialist and lives in Lansing.