August 20, 2014

Elyria
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Ridgeville looks to restrict Splash Pad access

Noah Jones, 4, of North Ridgeville, plays with the water gun at the Splash Pad at South Central Park in North Ridgeville in 2009. (Chronicle file photo)

Noah Jones, 4, of North Ridgeville, plays with the water gun at the Splash Pad at South Central Park in North Ridgeville in 2009. (Chronicle file photo)

NORTH RIDGEVILLE — The city’s Splash Pad has been a very popular spot this summer.

So popular, in fact, those residents and their children have often felt squeezed out by the busloads of kids who regularly show up from Cleveland, Parma, Elyria, Amherst and other cities.

“Once we got to June, we started to see a busload every day or every other day,” Parks and Recreation Director Kevin Fougerousse said. “They were coming from everywhere. We were getting overrun by kids from other cities. It just got too crowded, and some of our own people didn’t feel comfortable. They felt like they were being pushed out.”

The situation never led to fights or any contentious issues, but it has led city officials to decide to post signs by next summer alerting non-residents that the Splash Pad water play area is designed for North Ridgeville residents only.

The decision to try to restrict use of the area to city residents came following discussions among Fougerousse and Mayor David Gillock and Safety-Service Director Jeff Armbruster.

“This probably should have been done when it (Splash Pad) was built, but it never was,’’ Fougerousse said. “In addition to putting up signs, we’ll have spot checks (by parks staff). If a busload of kids shows up from a different city, we’ll kindly ask them to leave. They are welcome to use the rest of the park. But the Splash Pad was built with taxpayer money, and we have to try and serve the needs of North Ridgeville residents first.”

Fougerousse said officials understand the desire of families to have a fun spot to send or bring their kids to cool off in the extremely hot weather the area has experienced.

“With purse strings being so tight these days for a lot of people, we get it that they’re looking for a free place for kids to go,” he said.

He plans to notify some area YMCAs that have sent groups of kids to the Splash Pad, especially during the summer’s unusually hot weather, asking them not to do so next year.

“I did some research into similar facilities in the region and found out a number of parks and rec departments restrict their ‘splash pad’-type facilities to residents,’’ he said. “Some have an attendant on hand while others put up signs or charge a nominal fee of a couple bucks. Still others let residents bring non-residents but they have to pay.”

Contact Steve Fogarty at 329-7146 or sfogarty@chroniclet.com.