Brookhaven community members tasked with overseeing the rollout of the $40 million parks bond projects voted to sink the controversial “lazy river” shallow pool at Lynwood Park and instead replace it with much cheaper and massive splash pad.
At a May 7 meeting of the Park Bond Citizen Oversight Committee, members decided to go with the city administration’s and a design engineer’s suggestion to do away with the lazy river, a shallow pool that flows like a river.
Building a “mega splash pad” that could include water cannons and waterfalls, for example, is much cheaper than a lazy river, they said. With the money saved by not building the lazy river, the city could build a road and roundabout to connect Mendell Circle and Devine Circle to create a complete circle around the park. The road project was not part of the bond, however.
“This adds more functionality to the park,” City Manager Christian Sigman said of the changes.
The city could also add geothermal heating to the pool and to the showers in the bathhouse by not building the lazy river.
The “lazy river” at Lynwood Park was a flashpoint of controversy in the days leading up to the parks bond vote in November. Some park activists who worked on the parks bond funding task force said the amenity was never included in the public parks master planning process.
Mayor John Ernst, who lives in Lynwood Park, and Councilmember Linley Jones, whose district includes the neighborhood, both worked behind-the-scenes to get the lazy river added to the bond referendum. Ernst and Jones said community members supported the idea of the lazy river.
The lazy river was an “incendiary topic” during the parks bond debate, noted one Park Bond Citizen Oversight Committee member. Another called it the “third rail” of the debate due to its controversy.
Getting rid of it was not expected to cause any issues by those living in Lynwood Park said another committee member, who also lives in Lynwood Park.
The $40 million parks bond approved by 60 percent of voters in November included spending nearly $11 million at Lynwood Park to complete its master plan. Of that $11 million, nearly $5 million was to go toward building a lazy river, a small splash pad and a new lap pool.
Cost estimates of the bigger splash pad and road project were not immediately available.
Briarwood Park pool changes
The oversight committee also agreed to move forward on building a new pool and bathhouse at Briarwood Park. Construction on the new facilities is expected to begin shortly after Labor Day.
The parks bond originally approved only $1.29 million for minor renovations, but recent changes to state codes on swimming pools is forcing the city to build completely new facilities, according to David Young of Lose Associates, the firm designing the pool facilities. Total money included in the parks bond for Briarwood Park is roughly $7 million.
To bring the pool and its pool building up to code requires complete construction of new facilities, Young said. Total cost for the new pool and building is right at $4 million.
Sigman said to make up the $2.7 million difference to cover the cost overrun, the city would reallocate approximately $1 million in savings found recently in the overall Ashford Park parks bond project to Briarwood Park; save another $1.5 million by delaying the Briarwood Park community center renovations; and eliminate about $750,000 budgeted for underground utilities.
Sigman said City Councilmember John Park, who represents Ashford Park, told him he was fine with reallocating his district’s park’s $1 million budget surplus to pay for the Briarwood Park pool. Ashford Park’s total original budget as approved in the parks bond was nearly $2 million.
Sigman said he knew this kind of reallocating of money would have to happen as more details and clearer engineering designs were made as part of the parks projects, but acknowledged he didn’t think it would come so soon.
Plans are now to get design plans for the Briarwood Park pool wrapped up and to the City Council for approval in June. The plan is to put the project out to bid after council approval and have a contract awarded in time to break ground on the new pool on or around Labor Day, after the current pool season closes.
The Briarwood Park pool is home to the Briarwood Barracudas, a competitive swim team in the city’s swim league. Briarwood Park pool is also the busiest pool of the city’s three pools; the other two pools are currently at Murphey Candler Park and Lynwood Park.