Cooling off in the scorching summer heat
L-R: Logan, 2, Jordan, 5, Kennedy, 1, and father Chris Marlo of Old Town are regular visitors and find a welcome respite from soaring temperatures at Alachua’s splash park.
ALACHUA – With temperatures reaching well into the 90s, it seems the place to cool down from the scorching summer heat at Alachua’s Splash Park.
Each week, hundreds of children are catching a break and splashing through the various water features at the park, now that summer is in full swing.
“Right now, we’re seeing about 500 children per week at the splash park, with the highest numbers during the weekends,” Alachua Recreation Director Hal Brady said Wednesday afternoon.
Brady said the park has been staying busy every day, including weekends. And fun doesn’t begin in the blazing afternoon heat. “The water comes on at 9 a.m. and turns off at 6 p.m., seven days a week,” said Brady.
These days, it can be tough to come by summer activities that don’t burn a hole through the wallets of parents. Consider that a single-day pass to Universal Orlando’s water park is more than $71 plus tax, and admission to either of Disney’s water parks is nearly $95.
For families looking for fun ways to beat the heat without hanging the plastic in their wallets out to melt, there are plenty of places to check out right here in Alachua County.
The splash park at the Hal Brady Recreation Complex is an easy pick for those looking to get out of the house without overheating, overspending or overdriving. Just a minute’s drive from downtown Alachua at 14300 NW 146th Terrace, admission to the splash park comes at a cheap price – free.
High Springs mother Andrea Sowards has already become a fan of the splash park this year. She visited about a month ago and again on the afternoon of Wednesday, July 11. Sowards brought her sons, three-year-old Aiden, and two-year-old, Collin, to cool off.
“We like coming here because it’s nearby,” Sowards said.
Rose Fennel, of Gainesville, brought her three daughters to enjoy the splash park Wednesday. Fennell said she discovered the park one day when she picked her husband up from the Dollar General Distribution center and the couple enjoyed a lunch at the Hal Brady Recreation Complex.
“We saw the splash park and all of the children having fun and I thought it would be great to bring my girls down here to enjoy it, too,” said Fennell. After a couple of hours at the park on Wednesday, Fennell said she was ready to go, but would be back again.
Some people cooling off in the park traveled from much farther away than High Springs or Gainesville. Old Town, Fla. resident and father of three, Chris Marlo, has brought his children to park several times. Marlo said he heard about the park through news coverage in years past. Although the drive from his house is roughly 45 minutes, he said he’s come to the park nearly a half-dozen times over the years.
“This is a safe, good environment with good people,” Marlo cited as one of the reasons he continues returning with his children to the spray park.
The park features a water tent, water dumping bucket brigade, water bars and water jets of many kinds including water spouts, bubblers, geysers and fountains.
Surrounding all the action is ample grass and a few picnic tables shaded by trees, beyond the range of any splashing or spraying. A high chain-link fence with a childproof gate encloses the entire area.
The splash park is open seven days a week in the summer from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., but hours may vary if someone reserves it.
The splash park was built about four years ago. City of Alachua officials hope to expand the size of the spray park to roughly double the pad and features.
If there is a craving for a pool to jump into, one can be found at the Westside Recreation Center in Gainesville.
Commonly referred to as Westside Park, the center is located at 1001 NW 34th Street. The facility features the 50-meter H. Spurgeon Cherry pool, diving boards and diving towers, a “splash pad” and an “aqua slide.”
Through Sunday, the park opens daily at noon. Starting Monday, Aug. 22, the park will open at 3 p.m. on weekdays.
Admission for adults is $3.85, and $2.45 for children ages 3 to 17 and for seniors 55 and up.
Gainesville is also home to two other public pools, the Northeast Pool, at 1100 NE 14th Street, and Mickle Pool, at 1717 SE 15th Street. All three pools in Gainesville are staffed with lifeguards.
Brady said the splash park in Alachua is already rented for birthdays and other celebrations on Saturday mornings from 10 a.m. until noon through Sept. 22. Although not as frequently, the park has been rented during the same times on Sundays, too.
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