Red Bay pursues grant for splash pad

If the City of Red Bay is awarded the grant it is seeking, it will mean a splash pad, basketball courts and shade structures at the Red Bay Water Park.

The city hopes the $359K multi-faceted project will be the recipient of a Land and Water Conservation Fund federal grant through Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs. The funds are set aside by the U.S. Department of the Interior for “the development or establishment of outdoor recreational areas. Projects include parks, playgrounds, forest and wildlife refuges, recreational lakes and ponds, outdoor playing fields, and picnic and camping areas,” according to ADECA – parameters, Mayor Charlene Fancher is confident, that match the proposed project perfectly. Information from ADECA adds, “virtually all public outdoor recreation activities are eligible for assistance under the program, including playgrounds, ball fields … court sports, picnic areas, camping areas, tracks, trails, swimming facilities, etc.”

Parks and Recreation Director Dean Hubbard said when he first took his position in April, he started asking one question: What can we do to make this park better? Two answers came speedily: Stay open longer and build a splash pad.

In response, the park stayed open a month longer this year and plans to do the same the next year, and Hubbard said there are also plans to add more evening hours, instead of only being open from 1-5 p.m., on Fridays and Saturdays – time for the littlest water park-lovers to enjoy the anticipated splash pad out of the glare of the hot sun.

“It was just a project I saw a need for, and I was requesting what the people wanted,” said Hubbard, who approached then-Mayor David Tiffin, after proposing the idea to the Parks and Rec Board, with the splash pad idea. Tiffin gave him the go-ahead to begin researching pricing, and Hubbard said when Fancher took office, she added her voice of encouragement for the city to move forward decisively on the splash pad. It will be an interactive play area for babies, toddlers and young children, where “they can play in the water a little bit and move around. It’s going to be really friendly for them,” Hubbard said.

The whole project took on an even greater air of urgency with the grant application deadline looming.

“We have to have everything submitted by Jan. 6,” Hubbard explained. “From the city’s standpoint, it’s a go.”

Of course, such an undertaking does not come without a price tag for the city. LWCF grants provide 50 percent matching assistance, meaning the City of Red Bay will be responsible for funding the remaining half of the projects, whether through monetary participation or in-kind/donated services.

“This is going to take our fun park to another level,” Fancher said. “I am so excited about this splash pad. It’s going to be the icing on the cake, offering another water activity, targeted specifically toward babies and toddlers.”

The city also discussed beautifying the Keeton Walking Trail and acquiring new playground equipment, as well as beginning complete renovation of the pool house at the water park, which has deteriorated over the years and now suffers from serious sewer issues than cannot be repaired without starting from scratch. Early estimates on the project exceed $200K. The city would likely delay moving forward on the pool house project until after matching funds for the LWCF are in place, assuming that grant is awarded.

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