Local contractor Wildwood Carpentry LLC Superintendent Brandon Jones (left) with Project Manager Darrin Fiskum. Photo: Lisa Bryan, KP News

The long-awaited 3,000 sq. ft. water feature should be ready by summer.

Key Pen Parks officially broke ground on the Gateway Park splash pad project Monday, September 9.

Dozens of community members gathered under the pavilion to listen to the celebratory words of local dignitaries before they plunged ceremonial golden shovels into the soil.

Opening remarks by Key Pen Parks Executive Director Scott Gallacher and Park Commission Board Vice President Ed Robison were followed by brief speeches from Sen. Emily Randall (D-Bremerton), Rep. Jesse Young (R-Gig Harbor) and Pierce County Councilmember Derek Young (D-Gig Harbor). Rep. Michelle Caldier (R-Port Orchard) was delayed by Olympia traffic, though her legislative assistant was on the scene.

Other phase three developments include an amphitheater and an additional pavilion.

“It’ll be great to have it open for next year for next spring and summer, and we beat Gig Harbor,” said Park Commissioner Kip Clinton to resounding laughter. “The Key Peninsula Metropolitan Park District has brought a lot of grant money to the KP for this project and many others.”

“We’re trying to expand our influence and engagement within the community, and them with us,” said Rob Home, president of the Key Pen Parks Foundation, which continues to raise funds to support the new splash pad project.

A splash pad is an above-ground area that uses jets, sprinklers and nozzles to create a water feature without the cost, maintenance or safety concerns of a pool. The open design also allows the play area to be accessible to individuals with mobility issues. The completed Gateway Park splash pad will feature a dozen unique water toys and provide over 3,000 square feet of recreation space.

Eva Jones, 7, and brother Sonny, 5, dig in to help. Photo: Lisa Bryan, KP News

The splash pad will be built on the north side of Gateway, adjacent to the playground. Construction is slated to be completed by May of 2020, allowing the community to begin using the pad as soon as next summer.

The winning bid for the project came from Wildwood Construction, a local company whose management expressed enthusiasm about working on a community improvement project so close to home. “We have young kids ourselves, and we’re excited about the splash pad for our families. We got real competitive on this one,” said Brandon Jones of Wildwood, who lives near Delano Bay with his wife and three children.

Key Pen Parks sees the finished project as a draw for residents and for members of surrounding communities looking to cool off during the summer. “We anticipate residents of the Key Peninsula, Gig Harbor and South Kitsap area using the park,” Gallacher said. “There are a number of people who come from different areas who use Gateway Park, and we expect that to continue.”

The most visible part of the splash pad installation will be the laying of a large, new concrete slab, but additional work will be required to put the pad into operation. “There’s a lot of in-ground things that people won’t see. Plumbing, piping for the components, as well as the drainage ditch for the water when it goes away. It’s still a large project,” Gallacher said.

The pad was designed by a consultant with experience designing similar features in the area. “They looked at our water flow and things like that to determine what features we could have,” Gallacher said. “It was a pretty straightforward design process. Our biggest challenge was that we have a small water line coming in, but we have quite a bit of pressure.”

According to Gallacher, the building process shouldn’t interrupt normal park activities. “As part of our contract, the park has to stay open. People may see fenced-off areas, but the park will remain open as the pad is being constructed,” he said.

The splash pad is part of phase three of the Gateway Park master plan, a blueprint for park improvement created in 2015 with input from community members and consultants. Other phase three developments include an amphitheater and an additional pavilion, although these projects were split off from the splash pad construction to make the grant application process simpler. Further down the list are plans for more trails, a sports field and a baseball diamond.

Funding for the project comes from several sources. A $500,000 grant from the Washington State Recreation and Conservation Office is being matched with several other sources by Key Pen Parks, including real estate excise tax funds from Pierce County and local donations.

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