FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) — The splash pad at Headwaters Park in downtown Fort Wayne has sat dormant since the COVID-19 pandemic hit the United States in full force.
While there were hopes that it would be up and running again in 2023, Headwaters Park Alliance executive director Geoff Paddock told WANE 15 on Monday that the splash pad won’t be ready to be turned on when summer temps hit.
“I think the biggest delay right now has been the difficulty in putting a plan together because it is intricate, and finding the engineers, if you will, that can redesign this after 25 years or so has been more difficult than we expected. But it’s coming forward and we’ll be working with the city and the parks department to try and get this done,” Paddock said.
According to Paddock, the splash pad was first constructed and opened in the mid-90’s and then ran consecutively for nearly 30 years.
After it was turned off due to the pandemic, several issues came about.
The first being new guidelines from health departments regarding splash pads and how the water circulates.
It also turned out, Paddock said, that both letting the splash pad sit idle and some flooding damaged key components of the system.
He believes it’s going to take $300,000 or more to repair it.
Finding funding has been half the battle.
The Headwaters Park Alliance, a non-profit still trying to catch up on lost funds from pandemic-era cancellations. Those funds usually go toward maintaining the 30-acre facility with the park, festival center and paying employees.
Paddock told WANE 15 the alliance is now working to hopefully secure about $100 to $150 thousand from the private sector and have the other half covered by the City of Fort Wayne.
He noted that the alliance has had great success in fundraising from the private sector over the years.
The other half of the battle has been battling things like inflation, supply chain issues, and finding someone who can effectively refurbish a splash pad that was first installed around 1995.
While it hasn’t been as easy a fix as they hoped, Paddock said that everyone — including the alliance, the city, and the parks department — wants to see the splash pad up and running again as soon as possible.
“This is in a key location, and for many, many years I’ve seen folks walk from area neighborhoods that don’t have a whole lot and have this free entertainment in the hot summer,” he explained. “So it’ll be coming back, but just exactly when, we don’t know.”
Paddock added that he believes they’ll be able to make some movement on the splash pad this year and he hopes to see a fully refurbished splash pad turned on at Headwaters Park in 2024.