The sprayground in Hurricane City Park has gained positive attention from neighboring cities since it first opened to the public in 2012, but now its popularity is becoming a problem.
Ben Newhouse, the city manager of Hurricane, said managers often see busloads of young children from camps, churches and daycares from out of town traveling to the sprayground. He said the city council discussed the crowding issues this month and started to brainstorm ideas to help ensure the safety of the children who enjoy the splash park.
“We made this for little kids, so we see hundreds of kids every day,” Newhouse said referring the sprayground. “(Having) all the day cares and churches bringing busloads down here wasn’t the intent. They call us all the time from Kanawha County, Dunbar and South Charleston. I couldn’t tell you how many people come from far and wide to use this thing.”
Kristen Thornton, from Minneapolis, Minn., was visiting family members in Winfield and decided to take her young children to the sprayground during the Fourth of July weekend.
“I think it’s really nice,” she said. “We have quite a few in the Minneapolis area and I think this is a great size. It has a lot of stuff for toddler age and for some of the older kids too.”
The sprayground includes several types of water features to suit ages 12 and under including larger buckets of water that empties when full to keep older children entertained and various small ground sprays for younger children and toddlers.
Brandi Neal, from Huntington, also said she heard of the sprayground by word of mouth. It was her first time visiting, and she said she was impressed with the splash park.
“My sister and a couple of my other friends talked about coming here,” she said. “It is very nice and it has a lot of activities for the kids to do and it’s nice for them to be able to cool off. It’s just nice family fun.”
Newhouse said the sprayground was meant to be a small, tranquil place for families — like Thornton and Neal — to bring children to cool off on a hot summer day. Even though Hurricane has a wave pool and water slides in Hurricane’s Valley Park, Newhouse said small children didn’t have a place they could enjoy before it was built.
Newhouse said they are concerned about the children’s safety when large groups visit, which is one of the main reasons why the city council addressed the crowding issue. He said in most instances children outnumber the adults supervising them when busloads come unannounced to the sprayground. He said they want to make sure kids are safe and accounted for when they visit.
Brenda Campbell, the director of the Hurricane Convention and Visitors Bureau, said the city discussed making large groups register before they visit the sprayground to ensure there is enough supervision for the children. She said leaders hope to have a ratio of one adult for every five children at the sprayground.
“Our main concern is the number of adults with large groups of children that come,” she said. “It’s a safe facility to come to, but we would like to see the one to five ratio with groups. It’s an ideal place for kids (to come) and they really seem to enjoy it.”
She said residents sometimes are frustrated when they come to an already-full sprayground on the days where busloads of children visit.
The sprayground has gone through recent renovations to try to resolve overcrowding. At the beginning of the season, the park added a covered shelter, four picnic tables and a concession stand with a gated area for people to use when they visit.
The sprayground is free and open to the public. It is open 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday to Saturday and 1 to 7 p.m. Sundays. To schedule or find out about a private reservation of the sprayground, call Hurricane city hall at 304-562-5896.
Contact writer Shawnee Moran at 304-348-4872 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @shawneemoran22.