City plans for water spray park

Published 12:00 am Thursday, March 2, 2000

If the City of Natchez can get grant funding, children at North Natchez Park could be cooling off with a water spray park by the end of the summer. The city has applied for $50,000 Community Development Block Grant funds that would help build a a &uot;Sprayground&uot; park — a cheaper alternative to building a pool and one that does not require lifeguards or supervision.

The project would cost $124,600, according to the grant application, with $74,600 coming from city in-kind contributions and $48,600 in cash from the city.

&uot;These are nice, little parks that offer lots of water activities,&uot; said Natchez Mayor Larry L. &uot;Butch&uot; Brown. &uot;It’s an inexpensive alternative to a swimming pool.&uot;

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Eventually the city would like to build more &uot;Spraygrounds,&uot; but North Natchez is targeted for the first one.

&uot;That park would be the one with the highest use,&uot; Brown said.

The city is looking at building a Sprayground made by the Rain Drop Co., which promises fun in the water without swimming. A Sprayground is a series of computer-controlled water sprays installed beneath the ground. The computer controls the sprays at random intervals, so children never know when one will turn on.

Because the Sprayground is computer-controlled, city maintenance would be at a minimum, said Natchez Recreation Director Ralph Tedder. The water sprays turn off when no one is around and turn on with a remote sensor when children are at the park.

Tedder said he thinks the Sprayground would be more fun for children than the 60-year-old Duncan Park Pool, which is usually only open for two months in the summer and has caused the city headaches in recent years, from maintenance costs to a lack of lifeguards.

The Sprayground could be open seven to eight months of the year, Tedder said.

&uot;I’ve been looking for more exciting aquatic facilities that aren’t so expensive that they eat up your cost in maintenance,&uot; Tedder said.

Tedder said the Sprayground also offers children something new to do in the summer — a possible deterrent to youth crime. Adams County Youth Court Judge John Hudson is among the supporters who sent letters advocating the park along with the grant application.

&uot;The proposed location for this equipment will benefit the maximum number of youths in our area who are at the greatest risk and disadvantage,&uot;&160;Hudson wrote.

The Natchez-Adams School System, Chamber of Commerce, Natchez Housing Authority and Adams County Board of Supervisors are among the others who sent letters of support.

James Johnston, community development coordinator for the city, said this is the first time the state has set aside CDBG&160;funds for recreation.

&uot;I’m optimistic,&uot; he said. &uot;I think we submitted a good grant application.&uot;

Johnston said the city could hear as early as next week whether it is one of the 36 applicants narrowed down by the Mississippi Department of Economic and Community Development, which awards the grants. If that happens, MDECD officials will make a site visit to Natchez, he said.