Ground broken on long-awaited splash pad

Published 10:12 am Tuesday, October 17, 2023

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The vision of children enjoying a water wonderland at a Winchester park got one step closer to reality on Thursday.

The official groundbreaking for a long-awaited splash pad took place at Community Park, and perhaps no one was more excited about the groundbreaking than Winchester resident Deatra Newell.

“I am just so glad and happy that this day has come, and we will have many more good things to come with our new leadership here in Winchester and Clark County, “Newell said.

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Newell’s involvement in the quest to bring the splash pad to the Meadow Street park began 18 years ago after the Eugene Gay Pool was closed due to financial and structural issues. Specifically, Newell wanted local leaders to keep a promise.

“They said that they would put something back in that spot and never,” Newell said. “That’s when I took it upon myself, along with a couple of other ladies, to ask them about a splash park, and we just kept on until we got somebody to hear us.”

Former Winchester Mayor Ed Burtner and former Clark County Judge-Executive Henry Branham worked behind the scenes to get the project off the ground and to acquire funding. They also found a key ally for Newell and the others.

“Mayor Burtner said, ‘You need to call Deatra Newell,’” said Winchester-Clark County Parks and Rec director Jeff Lewis. “She has been nothing but amazing to me, and I love her like a sister. She has worked with multiple different mayors, governors, state representatives, county officials and county judges.”

Lewis thanked different local and state leaders for their assistance but saved his highest gratitude for Newell.

“If it wasn’t for Deatra, I think some of this stuff would have died on the vine, and she made sure that it did not,” he said.

The first phase of the splash pad’s construction is the parking late, which should be completed by late fall. The second phase will be to get the pad itself installed. Lewis said the project is estimated to be completed by next July.

The splash pad is designed to be an area for water play with little to no standing water. Various features will be included to spray, rain, mist, and shoot streams of water – which, once splashed onto the surface, then collected, filtered, and recirculated to keep the water flowing and do so in an eco-friendly manner.

Its location at Community Park is perfect in the eyes of the project’s advocates.

“A lot of children can walk to it,” Newell said. “Children love to come here. You have the community field and shelters. This will be a nice complex one day. This will be a nice complex one day for everybody.”

Community leaders shared those sentiments and more.

“This is a red-letter day today for Winchester,” Mayor JoEllen Reed said. “This project has been a long time coming. It is going to open an avenue for a lot children that have no way to swim or do water play during the summer. It is going to be a great community asset.”

“This has come together because of the work between city, county and parks and rec,” Clark County Deputy Judge-Executive James Tipton said. “It’s been a while getting to this point, but this is what happens when everyone works together.”