Approved splash park funds concern some

With nearly unanimous support from the City Council and a sold-out Aug. 2 fundraiser at the Civic Center, some still feel the proposed Super Splash Park lacks full community support.

The proposed park and competition pool is planned to be located at Carbondale’s Super Block recreation facility, and the council kicked in $90,000 in tourism funds by a 6-1 vote at its Sept. 11 meeting.

In addition to a $2.5 million federal grant from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, Kathy Renfro, executive director of Carbondale Park District, said the district raised $324,000 of the required $900,000 to begin construction by spring 2013.

Jerry Kline, of Carbondale, said the park will be built right in his backyard if the project goes as planned.

“I have a signed petition by everybody in the neighborhood who’s for putting the park somewhere else,” Kline said. “We live on a dead-end street, and it’s quiet here … for now.”

Though the park district owns the land the splash park will be built on, Kline said it’s hard to understand his concerns without first visiting his property.

“It’s close enough to where if it’s built, I’ll probably sell everything and move.”

Councilwoman Jane Adams casted the lone vote against the funding and proposed the vote be postponed for 90 days.

“My main concern is that over the years it might cost more than it can bring in,” she said. “There needs to be full support from neighboring communities as well.”

Councilman Lance Jack, who voted in favor of the plan, agreed with Adams that there should be further public discussion about the water park’s long-term sustainability.

“It’s a wonderful idea, and it feels great,” Jack said. “But when the bills are due down the road, is this going to be another albatross around the neck of the park district?”

However, Sally Wright, co-chair of the park district’s aquatics center advisory committee, said Adams’ and Jack’s concerns could be put to rest with a fairly simple business practice.

“It’s true that we will probably have our good years and our bad years,” Wright said. “So when we have good years we just stock money away for the bad ones.”

Councilman Lee Fronabarger, who has been involved with the proposed splash park for several years, said the water park will provide 75 to 80 seasonal jobs, and it will potentially create hundreds of thousands of tourism dollars related to hosting regional swim meets.

Though the entire council agreed the splash park would draw people to the city, the construction grant leaves the remainder of the $3.4 million project to be raised by the park district.

The splash park will also include a competition pool and is expected to generate nearly $479,000 in revenue with an estimated annual operating cost at $460,000.

Councilwoman Corene McDaniel said she is confident in the district’s ability to make the water park successful.  She said the city should do all it can to help the district succeed with the Super Splash Park.  McDaniel said it’s a project that has been discussed for more than 40 years.

Renfro said she’s optimistic about the park district’s goal to raise $500,000 by December.  She said the upcoming 24-Hour Swim-A-Thon fundraiser, which begins at 6 p.m. Friday, Sept. 21, at the LIFE Community Center in Carbondale, looks to raise $15,000 for the project.

“Since our last fundraiser, I feel pretty good about our project’s standing in the community,” she said. “We want everyone to have ownership, and no gift is too large or too small.”

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About Caleb Motsinger

Caleb Motsinger can be reached at cmotsinger@dailyegyptian.com or 536-3311 ext. 269.

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