Ready, set, go: Splash pad opens at East Spencer park
By Shavonne Walker
EAST SPENCER — On Thursday, East Spencer Public Works employee Julio Mealo was helping get the town’s splash park ready for opening day. On Friday, his three children were among the first to experience the latest feature at Royal Giants Park.
The town has been collecting donations and earmarking money for rehabilitation of the park since 2012. There were a few delays, especially in the past several weeks. But on a day when the high temperature reached 81 degrees, the first few children ran nonstop through the sprinklers.
“I said, ‘You ready?'” Mealo said he told his children early Friday.
“‘We’ve been ready,'” was their answer.
“It makes me feel good,” Mealo said of being a part of getting the park ready.
Mayor Barbara Mallett said seeing the splash pad come to fruition is wonderful and would not have been possible without the town board, Public Works Department, fire and police departments and town staff as well as interim Town Administrator Phil Conrad and Macon Sammons Jr., special projects and grants manager.
“We have been waiting since 2014 for this moment,” Mallett said.
She said residents have been supportive and patient. She’s pleased to see the fruits of their labor and noted that local and state entities and officials helped make it possible.
The splash park is on the other side of the basketball court, just beyond the parking lot. It is shaped like a baseball diamond as a nod to the origins of the park. In 1978, the park was established after trustees of the Royal Giants baseball team donated land to the town.
The splash park features a number of large sprinklers, ground sprays, spin splashers, an activity tower with two slides and a baseball “mega soaker” that empties water onto those waiting below. The splash pad is designed to conserve water; it automatically shuts off after inactivity, then the water returns at the push of a button.
Sam Hillian, whose brother is East Spencer Alderman Tony Hillian, said he found out the splash pad was open from his brother. He and his daughter, Serenity, headed to the park.
“It’s great for the kids,” Sam said.
He said he’s glad the splash park is open because it’s something that will keep children out of trouble and give them something to do.
Ready, set, go
In 2000, the town pool closed for the final time after years of continual repairs. When the town determined it wasn’t cost-efficient to repair the pool, the board decided to replace it with a splash pad.
The town began in 2012 with a questionnaire in the community. In 2014, volunteers, including board members, made improvements including building a picnic shelter.
The splash park is part of a four-phase renovation of the park. Further developments will include an amphitheater and zip-lines. The money raised thus far has covered the cost of Phase I, which includes the splash park, picnic shelter, corn hole courts, renovations to the restroom and shelter, basketball courts and a playground.
The opening of the park was slated for June 1, but it was delayed because of plumbing in the bathhouse and activation of a phone lines for security cameras.
The splash park has three employees, including 15-year-old DJ Simmons. Simmons, who was at the splash park Friday, said he mostly is responsible for “running around” to make sure the park is clean, maintaining the grounds and explaining the rules to young children.
There are also a number of charging stations for electronic devices under a picnic shelter. Restrooms are also available near the splash park.
Mallett said the town is looking for new members of a recreation advisory board that will help help come up with ways to best use the splash park and other areas of the park. She said current members of the advisory board have ideas about using the facility beyond the summer months.
The town began collecting money in 2012 with an initial $15,000 contribution from the town. The town then earmarked subsequent $15,000 donations in 2013, 2014 and 2015.
Contributions have been made by the Julian & Blanche Robertson Family Foundation for $25,000; Margaret Woodson Foundation for $25,000; a $30,000 donation from the Stanback Foundation; donations from the county for $20,000 and $47,000, and pledges from the Carolina Thread Trail Foundation for $30,500 and F&M Bank Foundation for $10,000.
The town raised more than $300,000 in donations and pledges and in 2016 received a matching state grant.
Mayor Mallett said the cost to use the splash pad is $1, but because of a late start to the season this year, there is no cost.
The Royal Giants Park splash pad is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday. Royal Giants Park is at 200 Robinson Road.
Contact reporter Shavonne Walker at 704-797-4253.
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