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Cooling off in the scorching summer heat

SplashParkParents and youngsters alike find a welcome respite from soaring temperatures at Alachua’s splash park.  Rhiannon Pollard and her children, Liam and Rowan, are regular visitors to the popular cooling off spot.

With near triple digit temperatures scorching the area, it’s no wonder Alachua’s splash park has become a cooling haven for droves of parents and their young children.

On many hot summer days, scores of children can be seen splashing through the various water features at the park.

“There are some times when we see 75 to a 100 people down here at the splash park,” said Ronnie Foust who does maintenance at the Hal Brady Recreation Complex in the city of Alachua.

Foust said the splash park has been bustling with activity all summer long. “From nine in the morning until seven at night, there’ll be people down here playing.”

Cool summer activities on a budget are especially tough to come by these days.  Consider that a single-day pass to Universal Orlando’s water park is $33 plus tax, and admission to either of Disney’s water parks starts at $41 and climbs quickly.

For families looking for fun ways to beat the heat without hanging the plastic in their wallets out to melt, there are plenty of places to check out right here in Alachua County.

The splash park at the Hal Brady Recreation Complex is an easy pick for those looking to get out of the house without overheating, overspending or overdriving.  Just a minute’s drive from downtown Alachua at 14300 NW 146th Terrace, admission to the splash park comes at a cheap price – free.

High Springs mother Rhiannon Pollard has been a fan of the splash park for about a year.  Tuesday afternoon, Pollard brought her 10-month-old son, Liam, and two-year-old daughter, Rowan, to cool off.

“We like coming here because it’s nearby and it’s something a little different than just getting in a pool, and most of the children here are also really young,” Pollard said.

Some people cooling off in the park traveled from further away.  Williston resident Amber Thornton came along with friend and Micanopy resident Angle Chauncey.  Thornton brought her son, Jaxon, and Chauncey brought her daughter, Lilly, to cool off in the splash park.  The two women said Tuesday was their first time at the park, which they heard about through word-of-mouth.

The park features a water tent, water dumping bucket brigade, water bars and water jets of many kinds including water spouts, bubblers, geysers and fountains.

Surrounding all the action is ample grass and a few picnic tables shaded by trees, beyond the range of any splashing or spraying. A high chain-link fence with a childproof gate encloses the entire area.

The splash park is open seven days a week in the summer from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., but hours may vary if someone reserves it.

The splash park was built about three years ago.  City of Alachua Grants Specialist Diane Morgan said the City hopes to expand the size of the spray park to roughly double the pad and features.  Morgan is currently preparing a grant application for the 2012/13 year that, if approved, would fund that expansion.

If there is a craving for a pool to jump into, one can be found at the Westside Recreation Center in Gainesville.

Commonly referred to as Westside Park, the center is located at 1001 NW 34th Street.  The facility features the 50-meter H. Spurgeon Cherry pool, diving boards and diving towers, a “splash pad” and an “aqua slide.”

Through Sunday, the park opens daily at noon.  Starting Monday, Aug. 22, the park will open at 3 p.m. on the weekdays.

Admission for adults is $3.65, and $2.35 for children ages 3 to 17 and for seniors 55 and up.

Gainesville is also home to two other public pools; the Northeast Pool, at 1100 NE 14th Street, and Mickle Pool, at 1717 SE 15th Street.  All three pools in Gainesville are staffed with lifeguards.