Kurt Dietrichis not a stranger to designing water spray parks for the Town of Babylon, N.Y.
Over the past few years, Dietrich, an associate partner with the Mineola, N.Y.-based Sidney B. Bowne & Son engineering firm, designed two other spray parks for the Long Island community. When Babylon’s town leaders came back to the company in 2012 to design its new, 14,400-sq.-ft. spray playground at Geiger Lake Memorial Park, in the Wyandanch section of Babylon, the community leaders knew what they wanted installed.
“We’ve been doing work with Babylon for several years,” Dietrich says. “The idea of this specific spray park was really driven by the town. It’s something the town had been planning and foreseeing for several years. Having completed two other spray parks before, the town had a better feel for what it wanted this time around. It had done the research and knew what was available between different manufacturers.”
Geiger Lake Memorial’s Spray Playground and Pavilion opened July 13th and was built by Islandia, N.Y.-based Stalco Construction. The spray park was a $10 million feature of the $500 million “Wyandanch Rising” program – a public/private effort to rejuvenate the Wyandanch community. According to an April Wall Street Journal article, a loss of factory jobs as well as the influx of gangs and drugs hurt the community. The problems led to the Suffolk County Planning Department naming the area the most economically distressed community on Long Island in 2001.
Frank Bachety, the Town of Babylon parks & recreation commissioner, was in those development meetings with Bowne & Son and saw the construction through to the end.
“I was anticipating this project to be a little more difficult than it actually turned out to be,” he says. “Everything went smoothly and the opening went off without a hitch.”
In the few months since the Geiger Lake spray park was unveiled to the public, people visited the park in strong numbers. Bachety says that on a given day around 150 to 500 people take in the park. Each year, the park will be open from mid- to late June (depending on when the local schools let out) to Labor Day (when school reopens).
“We see that increasing quite a bit next summer,” Bachety states. “When we opened in the middle of the summer, a lot of people didn’t know about the park. Once the word gets out, we’re going to be even busier.”
Work before play
While the Town of Babylon got to have fun deciding what types of water cannons, slides, splash-o-lators and more were to be installed, Dietrich and his team chose the inner workings of Geiger Lake.
“Once we decided on certain aspects and the town said ‘we want this, we want that,’ that really drove the sizing of pumps, the piping and how much water was needed for each feature,” Dietrich states. “That really decided how the whole plumbing system, under-drain system, surge tank, etc., were designed.”
Dietrich’s team selected multiple ITT-Marlow pumps, including two spray pumps rated for 485 gpm and 566 gpm at 15 hp each. Another pump provides the park 600 gpm at 15 hp and the final installed ITT-Marlow pump rates at 596 gpm at 40 hp.
The team mapped out Geiger Lake to have three separate plumbing systems. Each system has a different flow capacity.
Geiger Park’s pump room was designed to give the day-to-day operators easy access to the inner workings of the spray park. There are four Kobolt flow meters with compact thermal flow sensors and four Griswold Class 150 flow controllers are set at each of the respective pump’s flow rate.
“The pump room is located below grade, inside a new, multifunction pavilion. All the pumps are below grade in a basement section that is open to the first floor,” Dietrich explains. “We left a lot of room around the pumps so they can easily be walked around. There is a lot of room around the piping so someone can turn and operate, or open and close valves as necessary.”
Among the fun features for kids to play with at Geiger Lake are a five-arm splash tower, an Under-Brella, a water snake, six custom water cannons, four water sprouts, three Geysersinos, eight bubblers and six water-conserving anyway-sprays, among other items.
The two other spray parks Bowne & Son designed for Babylon were near the beaches of Long Island and didn’t require as much water to be stored on-site. With the inland location of Geiger Park, a 6,000-gal. surge tank was required.
“With the number of features at Geiger Park, we needed a lot more water to be in the surge tank,” Dietrich explains in comparison to the two other Babylon spray parks.
How much water is actually shot out of each cannon or careening on each of the water slides is based on Bachety’s experience and New York state regulations. For example, a portion of Geiger Park is dedicated for kids under 5-years-old. Bachety is constantly making sure the amount of water being launched in that section is gentle enough for the kids to have fun without risk of injury.
“We have to make sure the flow of water is correct for that age group,” Bachety says. “We have employees who are certified pool operators. They learned through the contractors and designers and we continue to work hand-in-hand.
“As commissioner, I have three spray parks and five pools to manage,” he continues. “I’m used to what’s going on. I have four children and I know what feels good to them. For me, water flow is all about feel to know what’s age appropriate.”
The park features a UV system that treats used water and then recycles it throughout the park. Installing a UV system was key because it eliminated the need for chlorine in the system. Launching chlorinated water into the atmosphere and potentially into the eyes of young children is a risk not worth taking.
“The Suffolk County Health Department likes UV systems for these types of facilities,” Dietrich says. “Also, you don’t have to store chlorine on-site which can be a hazard. The UV system also provides better disinfection and clarification of the water than a chlorine system.”
Installing an effective storm water management system was crucial for the spray park, but proved challenging. Because of how close the park is to the actual Geiger Lake, the water table level is located only 5 ft. below grade. Dietrich’s first thought was to elevate the entire spray park, but that would interfere with the natural look and layout of the landscape.
“To elevate that site would require a lot of fill,” he says. “Then the park would be much higher up than its surrounding areas. It would not look aesthetically pleasing.”
Dietrich and his team created a shallow-drainage system with catch basins, pipes and more than 100 collection chambers throughout the park.
The 30-in.-high chambers are installed in the park area, underneath the lawns and below the parking lot. The water is collected and slowly dissipated into the ground through crushed stone bases.
Trees of life
The central feature in Bowne & Son’s design is the “Trees of Life” which is represented by two artificial tree structures. The base parts of the “Trees of Life” were set below the retaining walls used for water slides. A bridge spans the retaining walls and encompasses both tree structures. Kids don’t have to climb up ladders to get to the slides and there are minimal stairs to get to the drop-offs.
The bridges are made from Greenhart timbers from Guyana. Some of the Greenhart sections are 30 ft. long and have to support the bridge.
“Because of its extraordinary resistance to water rot, Greenheart is used in marine and wet environments without any treatments,” Dietrich says.
Financing for the project came through local and federal sources. $5 million was raised through a bond issue, $4.1 million came from a community development block grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and $1.3 million was provided in other grant money.
Stalco Construction Principal Kevin Harney and Project Executive Joseph Serpe led the construction. Stalco was able to reduce construction costs by nearly $1 million with value engineering, scope revisions and use of alternative materials.
The spray park complex features a 2,500-sq.-ft. pavilion that houses a concession stand, offices, public restrooms and an elevated veranda.
“The building is located near a new 94-car parking lot,” Harney says. “The pavilion serves as the main visitor comfort station for the entire Geiger Lake Memorial Park.”
A pool construction subcontractor manages the winterization and summer restart of Geiger Lake, but it gave Bachety and his staff extensive training on the system and its functions. Bachety says the training is necessary in case something would go awry. The worst thing for Bachety and his crew is if the park has to be shut down, even for a few minutes.
“The systems get more computerized all the time. You can go in there and you can look all these numbers, all of the panels and shake your head,” he says.
For all the underground bells and whistles for Bachety to handle, the laughs and joy from the kids in the park make all the hard work worthwhile.