Making a splash
Manawa launches new splash pad
By Greg Seubert
The sun was out, humidity was in the air and the temperature was heading toward the 90-degree mark.
It all added up to a perfect day to open a new splash pad.
Several people – most of them kids – headed to the Manawa Area Veterans Freedom Park Aug. 26 to check out the park’s newest addition.
Mayor John Smith, who helped get the park project off the ground several years ago, looked on as kids cooled off.
“The idea came with the whole initial concept of building a veterans memorial park,” he said. “We have a beautiful tribute to our military personnel. When we started this, a great deal of us had our family and our kids in the military. Most memorial parks are dedicated to past service in the military.
“We wanted something that would include current-serving (personnel),” he said. “I think the sacrifices of the families become more and more evident as younger people serve and more people are involved in the military. We wanted to give our families a place to go and celebrate the freedoms offered to us.”
The park also includes a veterans memorial shelter house, playground and fishing pier on the Manawa Millpond.
“This is our fifth year of fundraising and we’ve currently raised about $620,000,” Smith said. “We thought we would have to be at about three-quarters of a million to complete the project and I think we’re going to land on that number. We have a few more projects to do.”
Those projects include a bridge linking the splash pad to the veterans memorial.
“We have a canal that separates the two parks,” Smith said. “We are going to build a bridge from the family side of the park to the veterans side of the park. That is kind of the link that joins the families and the military together.
“We have had so many generous donors over the years that we’re going to build walls,” he added. “I think there are going to be four different walls to pay tribute to each level of support that we’ve been given. Then, we’ll blacktop the parking lot to keep it clean and looking nice for years to come.”
COVID-19 pushed the splash pad’s opening back by more than a month, according to Smith.
“The company that provides the components, like many other companies, reduced their capacity by 50%,” he said. “We are about 1 1/2 months late with getting it open. Our fundraising was probably about $50,000 short this year, but through the generosity of a local business owner, we were able to get it done.”
Although the splash pad opened later than expected, it’ll also be open longer than originally scheduled.
“The plan originally was to shut it down on Labor Day,” Smith said. “This year, as long as the weather holds, we’ll try to run it maybe until the middle of September just to give the kids and families some place to go to forget about the troubles of the world today.”
The splash pad is controlled electronically.
“It’s on a timer and automatically fires up at 10 o’clock in the morning,” Smith said. “It won’t fire up unless somebody pushes the blue button on the blue pedestal. It runs on a four-minute cycle and automatically shuts off at 7 p.m.”
Once those four minutes are up, the button needs to be pressed again.
“I just heard a couple of them say, ‘I want to restart it,’” Smith said. “It gives them a little source of control. Once it starts up, you hear the laughter start up again.”
Seeing the splash pad spray water for the first time turned out be emotionally for Smith, who has a daughter currently serving in the military.
Fun place for kids
“A lot of us are grandparents,” he said. “My two oldest grandchildren are from Wautoma and they have a splash pad. I grew up in Oshkosh and they have splash pads. We feel it’ll bring people to our community. We want good people to live here and good people to enjoy coming here to visit. By giving them something like this, I think we open up the door to opportunity by inviting new residents and development to the city. That’s the idea: give these kids a fun place to play no matter where they’re from.”
Smith said the Manawa community has supported the park project since it began years ago.
“As the mayor, I’m very proud of what our city’s done,” he said. “This is a wonderful addition. Anything we can do to positively affect families is a positive for our city. We should be working to bring people together and it doesn’t matter where you’re from. We have so many problems in the world today, but these kids don’t know any different. That’s what we need to promote. They’re all equal here.”
The splash pad isn’t just for Manawa, he said.
“It’s for other communities around us that don’t have this,” he said. “We’re fortunate that we had a lot of people believe in our idea to be able to bring this project. Today’s opening of the splash pad is truly what the purpose of this was. You can hear the children’s laughter.
“After the spring and summer we’ve had, these kids deserve a fun place to go,” he said. “Throughout the generosity of community members and people who have participated in our fundraisers from outside the community, we’ve been able to see this come to fruition. It’s a perfect day today.”