Use Your Water to Build Your Community
The natural landscapes that make waterfronts so attractive a destination for people, and therefore ideal locations for parks and recreational spaces, have also in recent years taken on a much greater role: serving as catalysts for economic development within their communities.
Meeting the Challenges
Small towns face tough challenges when it comes to managing their waterfronts because they have less money on hand to make wide-scale changes. But officials in Stoughton, Wis., had a plan and did things right. “Last summer,” said Tom Lynch, recreation director, The Troll Beach
, “we doubled our attendance and quadrupled our revenues by improving the water quality, providing play structures that allowed participants to be more involved, and gave the public more comfort amenities such as shade, lounges and a concession stand. All this plus the sand made our beach different than anything inside a 40-mile radius.” Stoughton’s waterfront was created in the late 1950s. It was the original “aquatic center” in the area. Over the years, it became known locally as “the mud hole,” Lynch continued. “Some liked it. Some didn’t. It is a sand-bottom pond. We didn’t have the money to turn it into anything else. Our changes were inspired by seeing photos of area campgrounds. We became convinced that the public was looking for more interactive play compared to being directed down a waterslide. We installed large inflatable play structures and started getting better results at a lower cost.” With the changes to the area, the mud hole became Troll Beach, with a Norwegian theme, based on the community’s heritage.
Helping Stoughton succeed was Ron Romens, president of a Madison, Wis.-based company that specializes in recreation products. “Our clients range from municipalities like Stoughton to resorts and cruise-line islands to overnight camps and concessionaires that have a rental business.” If a recreation facility doesn’t have a waterfront, Romens can build one. “We are working with developers now who have a 10-acre field. They don’t have a waterfront so we are going to dig a two and a half acre pond and create an entire waterfront environment for them.” The pond will accommodate active and passive, with deep water and shallow water, as well as shade structures and seating. And there will be sand for a beach. “People like to recreate in water. That’s a fact, and it certainly has been proven to increase revenue for businesses at and around a park,” Romens said. “With a manmade water pond, you can also do eco education, and with natural plantings, even create a sustainable environment.”
Trends: Back to Nature
The whole point of creating an ecosphere near a water source is to get back to nature, both for kids and adults, Romens said. “Within the playground industry, natural, nature type playgrounds are what facilities want. There are some studies showing how people recreate and nature is a big part of it. Developing a waterfront, being outside, is a natural movement toward that end.” Other trends for waterfront fun include modular-type play systems
on the water, Romens explained. “When this trend first started in the 2000s, independent play elements were manufactured. Now, with the modularity of things, we link systems together and literally are creating circuits and courses
floating on the water.” This creates rotations of play. Picture, then, something similar to an on-land playground, where you go up steps to a platform, over a chain link bridge, down a slide and then back up a set of steps. This circuit can now be done in water, where the slides exit into the water. The participant will swim to a raft, climb up and then go through the circuit again.
Another trend is to focus on different age groups within the park setting. “The goal,” Romens said, “is to accommodate everyone in the family, from toddlers to tweens, teens and older folks. One way to do this is by creating shallow water elements
and sectoring off a shallow water zone with inflatable buoys with products appropriate in three feet of water—very low profile products that kids can walk and run across. And then you can have a deep water zone, which would have a more active, higher elevation type products
, where people, for example, could climb wall structures
. You can even have competitions there. The other nice thing about this kind of recreation is parents can go with their kids and if they don’t feel like running around, they can just hang out on floating platforms
. It’s also a great spectator sport, sitting on the beach and watching all the activity out on the waterfront.”
Click here to read the official article from Recreation Management.
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