ARLINGTON –Before children could romp in the water spray jets at the future Haller Park Splash Pad, they needed to turn a little dirt.
The city hosted an atypical groundbreaking at the crowded park Wednesday during its annual 4th of July morning festivities.
When it was time for elected leaders to grab the shovels as they have done for many public projects before, they let children do the honors instead. The kids wearing blue construction hats grasped their shovels and flipped mounds of dirt into the air on cue.
“The money was raised by the community for the children, to give the children a safe place to enjoy the water,” City Administrator Paul Ellis said of the $1.3 million project. “This was done without any taxpayer dollars.”
Mayor Barb Tolbert thanked the major funding partners – the Stillaguamish Tribe donated $500,000 and a state grant that matched the tribe’s.
Tolbert also thanked the Arlington Rotary and Friends of the Splash Pad for raising $127,000 through contributions and community support.
“You can help (Rotary) today by buying a Duck Dash ticket, even if you already have,” she said, with the 30th Annual Duck Dash happening later at Haller on the banks of the Stilly River.
Stillaguamish Chairman Shawn Yanity said historically the grounds in Haller were a gathering place for the tribe, where relatives would come up river for a visit, go to other villages, hunt and fish. He is glad to see it continue as a gathering place.
“We want to celebrate the children, and give them a safe place to play in the water, and keep cool, so they don’t have to be in the river,” said Yanity, lamenting that too often someone drowns in the river.
He added, “Today, instead of asking if salmon are coming up the river, we’ll be asking if children are coming up the river,” and offered that they be safe and blessed.
Yanity invited Tolbert to join him on ceremonial drums “to put our two communities into one heartbeat.”
Tolbert said the redevelopment of the park is happening in stages, and “this phase particularly is of high interest to the youth in our community. My grandchildren every week ask me, ‘Is it open yet, grammy? I keep saying soon.’
“We will celebrate the grand opening of the Splash Pad one year from now,” on July 4, she said.
The City Council on July 2 awarded a $768,798 construction contract to low bidder Marysville-based Reece Construction.
Kelly said Reece hopes to begin construction by the end of September. Reece has until March 30, 2019 to finish the project.
Construction will include a 3,300-square-foot spray deck with additional seating areas, city recreation manager Sarah Lopez said. The surface is river-themed with colored concrete representing a river, and themed equipment such as river otters, salmon, cattails and ducks.
Gazing at a sandwich board with illustrations of what the park will look like, 9-year-old McKenzie Adler of Smokey Point smiled.
“I think how the water spills out of the cones is cool; that will probably be my favorite,” she said, referring to the Dragonfly fill and spill feature. She added, “The raccoon bucket looks really fun, and so does the big cattail, and I like the cute animals,” pointing to a Raccoon Tidal Bucket and river otter water features.
Her mom, Nicole, said the park already has a lot going for it.
“The Splash Pad is going to take it to a whole new level when it opens,” Adler said.