Do you know what a splash pool is? I have to be honest, I don’t think I could have definitely told you what it was until I started working here at the Town of Chapel Hill. In case you aren’t sure, I have included a picture below.
This is a top issue/demand for the residents of Chapel Hill. Again, I repeat, this is a top demand for the residents of Chapel Hill (at least the most vocal ones). Almost every day, residents email the manager’s office and the town council about anything and everything that may be concerning them that they feel their local government can help solve. It actually has been one of the things that I have come to appreciate as people have a direct channel to communicate to their elected officials and appointed administrators.
Almost every week at LEAST one email comes in from a residential mother complaining that Chapel Hill does not have a splash pad. And proceeds to lay out several arguments as to why this is an egregious oversight that the town needs to correct since so many other communities surrounding Chapel Hill already have a splash pad. Most of this is coming from the fact that it is well known that the top of the Wallace Parking Deck is largely unusable and there have been many conversations about what to do with it. Well, I can tell you that the people want to put a splash pad on the top of that parking deck.
To me, this seems like a relatively insignificant thing that government should have on it’s radar. But I have soon come to realize that for local governments and Chapel Hill in particular, nothing insignificant is really insignificant. I have heard various town administrators and council members bring up the splash pad in conversations, sometimes jokingly, sometimes anxiously, and sometimes as a matter of fact. It has been a not so gentle reminder of how local government can get bogged down with little things here or there. Because there is nothing really that simple about putting a splash pad in Chapel Hill. Funding, space, increased traffic congestion, more viable alternatives, public works challenges. and the politics of location, just to name a few could turn this into a major political talking point for the town.
I am not sure that the Town is committed anytime soon to seriously consider this option, but I am sure that every week at least one email will come in requesting this much needed amenity that the town desperately lacks. And if the people are always right, then a splash pad is what they need. And a splash pad is what they will get.