Cooling off during the summer file

Residents play at the Lone Tree Creek splash pad in 2018 in this Advocate file photo.

During hot summer months, Victoria families flock to the city’s three splash pads to get outside and play while staying cool.

Victoria resident Ariel Carmona said she loves taking her two toddlers to the splash pad at Ethel Lee Tracy Park, which also has a new playground. But when she went recently, she was disappointed to see it was closed until spring.

“The splash pad is so nice that we didn’t think twice (about) going to it on another recent hot day, and we’re sad it was just closed,” she said. “I think many people feel the same.”

Carmona has started a petition to extend the use of the city’s three splash pads, which are at Ethel Lee Tracy Park, Community Park and Lone Tree Creek Park.

Currently, the season for the splash pads runs from spring break in March to early October. When the splash pads open during spring break, they are open on weekends only until the school year ends. Then, they are open daily until Labor Day, when they return to being open only on weekends until they close for the season.

During the season, the splash pads do not open if the weather is not expected to be above 65 degrees.

Carmona said she wishes the splash pads could stay open later in the year because the weather is often far hotter than 65 degrees past Labor Day. She also said she would like to see one or two of the splash pads stay open during the week after Labor Day, too.

“Because it revolves so much around the school schedule, it’s then not very available for people with kids who aren’t in school,” she said. She said if the splash pads were open, she would the take her two toddlers during the week, and other kids would likely come after school during the week, too.

Colby VanGundy, the director of the city’s parks and recreation department, said every year residents ask about keeping the splash pads open longer. However, he said, the weather plays a big role in deciding when to close them for the season, and in most Octobers, there is a cold front that “becomes a clear closing date.”

“We buy enough chemicals to last into early October, and that’s when the weather gets colder and usage of the splash pads goes down,” he said.

VanGundy said “it’s a dilemma whenever you have to figure out closing the splash pads.” He said the timing doesn’t ever feel perfect, and it becomes “almost trial and error and partially a guessing game with the weather” to find the right time.

Victoria resident Amanda Crump supports the petition. She said for her daughter and two nephews, the splash pads are “a perfect way to get outside and not be too concerned about the heat.”

“I do hear rumors of a cold front coming through, but it’s so hot, so I wish we had the option to take kids to the splash pad longer,” she said. “Rather than having to keep kids inside in the AC, I think many people would rather take them outside and to a splash pad.”

Crump said she would be thankful if the splash pads schedules were extended. She said it would be “fantastic” even if the splash pads were open just three days a week and on the weekends.

Carmona said she plans to reach out to city officials after she gathers more support for the petition and hopes to get a positive response. As of Monday evening, the online petition had more than 75 signatures.

Morgan Theophil covers local government for the Victoria Advocate. She can be reached at 361-580-6511, or on Twitter.

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