• Avry Tatum, 7, splashes Dylan Swanson, 10, while trying to cool off on a 94 degree day last week. Hundreds of children visited the Army Family Covenant Park Splash Park as temperatures set records in the Puget Sound area.

    JBLM Splash park

    Avry Tatum, 7, splashes Dylan Swanson, 10, while trying to cool off on a 94 degree day last week. Hundreds of children visited the Army Family Covenant Park Splash Park as temperatures set records in the Puget Sound area.

  • Hundreds of children visited the Splash Park last  week as temperatures set records in the Puget Sound area.

    JBLM Splash Park

    Hundreds of children visited the Splash Park last week as temperatures set records in the Puget Sound area.

JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. - Summer days are upon us, and thanks to the Army Family Covenant, Joint Base Lewis-McChord service members and their families can access a small piece of paradise without having to go far.

Still considered one of JBLM's best-kept secrets by many, the Splash Park has been open for several weeks and is providing much-needed relief from the heat.

Built for children 12 and younger, the splash park has a dozen different features - all run on timers, and all dispersing fresh water.

"We have it programmed so that four or five different things will come on and the others will turn off so the kids will keep moving," said Janet Foster, Bowl Arena manager and overseer of the splash park.

It's perfect for all ages, but especially for those not ready for a swimming pool or lake. Unlike other options for cooling down on and around post, such as American Lake and McChord Field Fitness Center Pool, the splash park is fun for children of all swimming levels.

"With this, you don't have to worry because there's no standing water," Foster said.

The splash park is just feet away from a state-of-the-art playground, both of which were designed with the Exceptional Family Member Program in mind.

A special type of flooring lies beneath the park, making it easy for water to drain and those in wheelchairs to maneuver.

"The flooring is impact resistant and compliant with (the American with Disabilities Act) so that wheelchairs can move around," Foster said. "It's also really nice on the feet and easy on the little ones if they happen to fall."

Benches between the splash park and playground give parents clear visibility of their children, even on the busiest days.

"If you have one kid at the playground and one kid in the splash park, you can see both ways instead of having your back to either," Foster said. "You really have a good vantage point from wherever sit to be able to see your child, even when there are as many kids out as there have been the last few days."

Parents and children can take shelter from the sun under a shaded patio, equipped with tables for picnicking or simply relaxing. With bathroom stalls and changing areas on-site, patrons can change into swimsuits at the park. There is also an outdoor shower for rinsing off and a concession stand during summer months.

It's all a part of a bigger plan, known as the Army Family Covenant Park, and is just one of many ways the Army is keeping its promise to take care of families.

"The Army has realized that Soldiers often come with families, and that those families deserve to have quality things to go to," Foster said. "It's also an indication that they realize this installation is not just someplace you drive to go to work and then go home."

Visiting the park for the first time, Jody Allen was impressed by the playground equipment and number of water gadgets for her 6 month old and 3 year old to enjoy.

"We lived in Oklahoma for five years, and they didn't have anything like this," Allen said.

Mackenzie Pankratz brought her 3-month-old daughter and 2-year-old son. She appreciates the Army's emphasis on families.

"This is wonderful," Pankratz said. "It shows that the Army is trying hard to keep families together by bringing more things for them to do as families."

It's also one of Foster's favorite aspects of the park. She enjoys hanging out at the park and seeing Soldiers spend time with their kids during lunch breaks.

"I think that's just the greatest thing," Foster said.

So far, the park has been well received by people of all ages.

"The only time I've heard kids cry is when Mom or Dad says, "We've been here six hours ... We have to go,'" she laughed. "MWR does a lot of good things, and we try to reach out to a lot of different demographics, but I think the planners really hit the nail with this one."

The splash park is free and open every day from 8:30 a.m. until 9:30 p.m. during warm months. It is located directly behind AFC Skate Arena on Liggett Avenue. While coolers are welcome, glass bottles are not.

Since the park does not have a lifeguard or supervisor on site, Foster asked that patrons simply be respectful toward others.

Laura M. Levering is a reporter with Joint Base Lewis-McChord's weekly newspaper, the Northwest Guardian.

Page last updated Fri July 16th, 2010 at 13:21