LAUREL — The Laurel city pool will remain permanently closed after issues with maintenance, cost, and logistics last summer. But something new is coming—and is making a big splash in the small town.
The splash park is still in the planning phase but should open sometime in the summer. The city is aiming for June if everything goes to plan.
But this park won't be cheap—so a donation fund has been created to fundraise for the project. An online donation website has been set up as well as in-person drop-off locations in Laurel.
"Unfortunately, due to cost of the extensive repairs needing done to make our pool what it once was in all of its glory, it just isn't possible," the donation website reads. "Other obstacles...(are) the continuous maintenance, laws preventing children under the age of 14 to go without being accompanied by an adult, and getting and keeping qualified help with running the day to day operations."
But the pool was loved by many—like Mayor Dave Waggoner—who (with the help of other community members) got the ball rolling on the new splash park.
This project won't be easy—but luckily, many community members are stepping up to help.
"I know the pool has been an amazing activity for kids. I mean, my girls grew up going to this pool, so we have a lot of memories. But at the same time, I see the need for change with the simplicity of a splash park, and the ability for kids of all ages to be able to utilize that," volunteer Cheryl Hill said on Friday. "It’s going to be nice to have one in our community to be able to stay here, and for our kids to be able to enjoy that."
Hill is a Laurel resident who has been helping get the word out about the new park.
“I’m a business owner here in Laurel as well as I have kids. We need activities for kids. With the pool closed the last couple years, we’ve missed out on that,” Hill said. ”If anyone wants to donate and help us take it to the next phase and add, we would really appreciate the donations."
The pool closed during the COVID pandemic but never reopened.
“You have the nostalgia. You have the memories. But I also know that going forward, with the maintenance of the pool, I think when we look at the future of allowing something that’s going to give activities for our kids without that maintenance cost and the ease of the city,” Hill said. “It’s just natural for us to kind of move into that even though there are memories here, I still think it will be a great thing for our kids."
And others, like Lyndsey Amestoy Archila, are using their business to help.
Amestoy Archila is collecting gift baskets to raffle off inside her hair salon, Hair on Main in downtown Laurel, and said on Friday that tickets can be purchased for $5 each or five for $20. She said there will be 30-40 baskets to choose from donated by local businesses, groups, and residents.
Another resident, Amy Mullaney, said on Friday that she is very proud of what the community is planning.
“I think it’s just a great opportunity for parents to be able to bring their kids out. Or if they’re busy, they can send their kids over, whereas you can’t do that with the pools anymore,” Mullaney said on Friday. “I’m very proud. I’m very proud to see all of the Laurel residents come out and support this."
Mullaney said many are stepping up to collect donations.
“The City Attorney, Michele Braukmann, her law firm Meridian, they are going to match $10,000 worth of individual donations,” Mullaney said. “The Small Business Alliance put on a winter formal recently and we raised over $3,700 for the splash park."
And city planners and contracted workers are also excited about the new addition to the community.
“It’s nice to see good projects like this going where the local community can enjoy it,” said Ryan Welsh, project engineer with KLJ Engineering in Laurel, which was contracted by the city for the project. “The city is looking to find ways to keep things open and keep it operational so the community can enjoy it."
Welsh said much is being planned for the park.
“We’re going to come in here and fill up the (pool) with some structural fill, bring it up,” Welsh said. “We’re going to have a number of features associated with the splash park, from a small children’s area to a large kid's area that will be fully interactive."
And Welsh said this splash park will be accessible to all—at no cost.
“If they are in a wheelchair they’ll be able to bring it right out onto the splash pad. We’re going to have some interactive devices so they can roll up to it and it’ll still be at their level so that they can play with it,” Welsh said.
According to Welsh, the project will have different phases. Phase one involves filling the old pool and installing splash park features, and following phases will include additions to the park, as more donations are collected.
“We’re looking at different phasing, and that’s all going to be dependent upon funding sources,” Welsh said. "(This will) save the city some money, plus it makes it more interactive for more people.”
But the costs of building and maintaining the park are high—so more donations are needed to make the project possible.
“We are looking at somewhere between $200-250,000 for the first phase of this, although as more funding comes in we can raise that bar a little bit,” Welsh said.
Kurt Markegard, the director of Public Works in Laurel, said a lot of planning is going into this park with the community.
“This community has just stepped up time and time again. They are really good about standing up for the community and trying to create those opportunities for youth in the community,” Markegard said on Friday. “If we don’t have things for the kids to do, why would anyone want to come and move to Laurel?”
According to Markegard, since he started with Public Works, the city of Laurel has completed many projects for the community. At least five playgrounds are just one example.
“The community is really your community, so if you want to make a donation in your community, the best way to do that is keep the funds in your community," Markegard said. "We’ll try to make anything that they want to do in the community a reality.”
And residents are anxiously awaiting opening day—hoping more donations will come in.
“I know other kids and other parents are like, ‘I can’t wait when it’s going to happen,’ people are ready and excited for it," Hill said. “I’m really looking forward to it. If anyone wants to donate and help us take it to the next phase and add, we would really appreciate the donations."
To learn more or to donate online, please click here.
“I think it will be a great meeting place for adults and kids alike,” Mullaney said.