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A concept map put together by Schmidt Design Group shows a potential layout and amenities of a splash pad at Jacobs Beach. Residents are currently fundraising to cover the costs of the project. (Photo by Jesse Williams/The Courier | Buy This Photo)
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Though most residents probably aren’t ready yet to start fantasizing about warm weather and summer fun, a new and unique avenue for beating the heat is continuing to gain steam in the town.
A preliminary design for a splash pad—a concrete structure designed for warm-weather water recreation, with various spray nozzles and fountains—was presented to the Parks & Recreation Commission (PRC) on Jan. 6 as the town considers adding this new activity for residents.
The impetus for the new activity actually came from residents, specifically Mandie Sorrentino, who first approached the Parks & Recreation Commission about the splash pad about 18 months ago. The PRC fronted the initial $21,000 cost of the design, though the plan is for the project to eventually be paid for in full by grass-roots fundraising, spearheaded by Sorrentino.
The initial design places the pad at the edge of the sand at Jacobs Beach, closest to the playground, and would offer about 10 different fountains, puddles, and geysers, mostly targeted at a younger crowd. It would cover a few hundred square feet, and water would feed into a “rain garden” alongside the pad, making it both environmentally friendly and aesthetically pleasing, according to Parks & Recreation Director Rick Maynard.
The design also proposes additional overflow lawn parking around the beach.
“The commission is 100 percent supportive of it,” Maynard said.
The designer of the pad also met with town officials from various departments, including Town Planner George Kral and representatives of the engineering department, Maynard said.
Maynard said the plan is to hold a public information session sometime in the next month or so, as he and Sorrentino first reach out to people living in the area to get comments and concerns before they move forward with an application to the Planning & Zoning Commission.
Maynard said the design was a big step because it allows residents to visualize and understand what the pad will look like and how it will function as Sorrentino continues to drum up support.
“We wanted to get to this point...so now we have something for people to see and get excited about,” he said, “and say, ‘Oh yeah, I’ll buy a bench; oh, I’ll give $500 to pay for that fountain.’”
Town officials have also been involved, including Town Engineer Janice Plaziak. She said that initial impressions of the design were positive, from an environmental and practical standpoint—particularly the rain garden.
“Rain gardens are best management practices for stormwater run-off,” Plaziak said. “We’re not talking storm-water, we’re talking recreational water. It gives it an opportunity to infiltrate into the ground and provide water for this feature [the garden].”
Initial testing showed the ground near the pad would likely be able to absorb overflow from the splash pad, and would not cause runoff into the Long Island Sound or other problematic areas, Plaziak said. She said she had done some preliminary research and found other splash pads in nearby towns—namely, East Haven—that operated near a beach.
“They’re not an anomaly,” she said.
Because of the proximity to the water, the splash pad must be reviewed both by the state Department of Energy & Environmental Protection (DEEP) as well as earn a special Coastal Area Management (CAM) permit through the Planning & Zoning Commission, Plaziak said. CAM permits require a public hearing, according to Plaziak.
Plaziak also praised the minimalistic design aspect of the pad, which wouldn’t feature any large structures or bulky equipment, making it both more resistant to storm damage, as well as fitting into the surrounding landscape from an aesthetic standpoint.
With the design now prepared, Sorrentino said she is now kicking fundraising efforts into a higher gear, with $5,000 already raised.
“We’re really hoping to get this built by the community, for the community,” she said. “And I think that’s what makes it really special.”
Currently, Sorrentino and the others involved in fundraising are offering a “buy-a-brick” program for people to have names or messages permanently built into the pad.
“We’ve had a number of people in the community really come together and offer out their services and put up different fundraisers for us as well,” Sorrentino said, “which has been really great.”
Local realtor Heidi DeRusso pledged to donate 10 percent of all her commissions over the next eight weeks to the splash pad, Sorrentino said, and several other businesspeople, artists, and cooks, are holding events to raise money over the next month or two, including a kids culinary class hosted by local chef Mary Amter, a fitness class hosted by Privé Swiss Fitness, and a painting class hosted by the Guilford VFW Post 7666 and taught by local artist Pamela Halligan.
“The VFW has donated their hall, and [Halligan] is donating her services,” Sorrentino said. “And the scene is really neat—they’re going to be painting the red shack on Grass Island from the perspective of the beach. So it’ll be a Guilford scene, capturing a portion of the beach, and capturing this iconic Guilford landscape.”
Volunteers are also working with local school PTOs, Sorrentino said, for a Splash Guilford with Kindness campaign, with details still to be worked out, but aiming to spread the ideas behind the splash pad campaign: community and kindness.
“It’s a really special thing that will benefit the schools, it will benefit the community, and will start stimulating really great conversations for parents to have with kids,” Sorrentino said. “It ties in with all the things we value. It’s about inclusivity—all ages and all abilities.”
To learn more about donation opportunities and events, contact firstname.lastname@example.org. Online donations can be sent to the Parks & Recreation Department through bit.ly/thesplashpad.
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