By Emily Harrington
Kids are fascinated with water. There’s a certain magical, adventurous and fun quality to the element that nothing else can replicate. My kid especially loves water. Combine a park and water and you have the perfect combination.
Hessel Park at 1401 Grandview Dr. in Champaign is home to one of two (free) splash pads in our community. The splash pad opened nearly 20 years ago when Hessel Park underwent a playground remodel in the mid-90s. The newly renovated playground’s big amenity became the splash pad — the centerpiece of the play area.
Every day from Memorial Day to Labor Day you can find the water spraying and kids squealing. The hotter and sunnier the weather, the more kids you will find splashing. This is literally a summer hot spot, so you can expect a lot of foot traffic! Although, the Douglass Park Splash Pad will hopefully spread out the crowds a bit.
The water is on from11 a.m.-3 p.m. & 5 p.m.-7 p.m., lengthy hours that provide a lot of flexibility. During the hours of operation the water will spray as long as the sensors are activated. These are on both ends of the splash pad and activate with the wave of a hand. In inclement weather the water is still on, so splash at your own risk!
The foundation of the splash pad is a soft mat material. Embedded in the material are multiple ground sprays that shoot at varying intervals. You’ll see many children get water shot up their nose while they are waiting for the sprays to shoot. This provides great entertainment for the surrounding caretakers! The main attraction is a series of metal rings that shoot water from every angle. The kids gather their courage and run back and forth through this tunnel of water. A stone dolphin and seal shoot water from their noses, too.
The splash pad is mostly shaded with benches scattered around it and nearby bathrooms. There’s a lot of sand in the area from the sandbox and it can get slippery. I would definitely recommend water shoes of some sort for your little ones.
I haven’t seen a kid yet who doesn’t have a great time running around in the water although it takes some a minute to warm up to the idea. I think kids of all ages would love the splash pad. However, for safety, I would only recommend confident walkers to 6 years of age using the area. It’s too small of a space to have a lot of big kids running into each other while crushing babies. However, you will undoubtedly see big kids running around the area; it’s just a given. There are no signs for the splash pad that display appropriate ages, so there are no explicit age rules.
The great thing about the location of the splash pad is its integration into the playground. Your older kids can play on the bigger structures while your younger ones splash in the water. When you are getting packed up, the wet ones can run around the playground and dry off. The kids leave happy and tired — the ultimate goal.
Emily Harrington is a Chambana townie that left her 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. job to be a 24/7 mom to a dreamy son. Still interested in writing, Emily uses some of naptime to practice her passion and keep her mind right. Emily is a happy wife with a happy life because she fell for a fellow townie. Oh, and let’s not forget her other son, a degenerate canine named Heppenheimer.