Splash pad makes a super-soaked debut
By Tom Gilchrist | Reporter
It rained buckets – actually, from a bucket containing hundreds of gallons of water – on squealing children in Caro on Monday night.
Many of the kids getting wet at the grand opening of the Aqua Zone, a $320,000 splash pad off Park Drive, yelled their approval.
A drenched Luke Stephens, 4, of Caro, the first child to run onto the Aqua Zone’s concrete pad and soak up some fun, “came up to me and said ‘I love it! I love it!’” said Heidi Stephens, 39, Luke’s mom.
Heidi Stephens watched her son frolic Monday with several dozen other children christening the splash pad, which offers about 20 features where water spews up, down or horizontally.
Use of the Aqua Zone, in Bieth Memorial Park, is free. The facility is open from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily. A user simply pushes a button on the top of an orange 3-foot-high pole to activate the splash pad’s water features for four minutes at a time.
Push the button again, and the Aqua Zone resumes operation.
“We’ve been excited for this day to come,” said Nicole Fields, 34, of Caro, who came to the Aqua Zone’s grand opening with her husband, Matt Fields, and their daughters, 5-year-old Kinslee and 15-month-old Isla.
“This is my summer break,” Kinslee Field declared to a reporter after getting doused with water.
“I was in kindergarten, but this is my summer break.”
Matt Fields, a teacher at Kingston Elementary School where Kinslee attends classes, said his family has visited splash pads in Frankenmuth, Bay City and Flint.
“We’ve been going to these splash pads all over, so to have one in the town of Caro is just awesome,” Matt Fields said. “Hats off to all the people that raised the money to get this put in.”
Caro Mayor Joe Greene, who helped cut the ribbon opening the splash pad Monday night, plans to bring his 4-year-old granddaughter, Nora Lowry, to the Aqua Zone in the coming days.
“(The splash pad) took a long time in coming; I’ve been recommending it for the last five years or so,” Greene said. “We put in a parks and recreation plan. Two years ago, the (Caro) parks and recreation committee really started pushing it and checking out different ones.
“Then last year we really got going on it and picked a contractor and did it.”
Vortex International, based in Montreal, built the Aqua Zone. A highlight is a large bucket, suspended about 15 feet off the ground, which fills with water and then tilts – roughly every minute – to send hundreds of gallons of water rushing onto a shelf about 12 feet above the ground.
When the water strikes the shelf, it cascades in various directions onto children below. The complex also includes a pair of water rifles atop pedestals, allowing a child to rotate the rifle right or left to shoot water at nearby kids.
Mila Doutt, 6, of Caro, reveled in the spray while watched by her grandmother, 48-year-old Janette Wilcox of North Branch, and Mila’s mom, 28-year-old Jessica Doutt.
“We walked out to come here, and Mila said, ‘I’ve been waiting all year to do this!’” Jessica Doutt said. “We play at (Bieth Memorial Park) a lot, and we can walk here from our house. We’ve walked past here so many times.”
Wilcox said she’ll recommend the Caro splash pad to families around North Branch, calling the Aqua Zone “very beautiful.”
Sean Smith, chairman of Caro’s Parks & Recreation Committee, teamed with Greene to cut the ribbon Monday. Workers handed out free snow cones and cotton candy to children.
Brinley Page, 6, waited in line for a free treat with her aunt, Allison Blaney, 23.
Brinley laughed when told she had a pretty good aim using the water rifles.
“Most of the times I stayed under the bucket,” Brinley said.
“She loves it here,” Blaney said. “She’s a spitfire, that’s for sure.”