GUILFORD — Jacobs Beach boasts a vast water feature — Long Island Sound, but there are plans to add another, albeit a small, manmade one, hopefully this summer.
A yearlong campaign to create a splash pad is closer to reality, with the conceptual design drawn up and a major fundraising campaign in full swing.
As community enthusiasm grows, fundraising is underway to raise $150,000. While the Parks and Recreation department will collect the funds and maintain the facility once open, no town funds will be used for its construction.
“The money will cover the full build and should leave a fund for maintenance and to go towards water cost,” explains Mandie Sorrentino, chair of the Guilford Splash Pad volunteer committee.
Sorrentino explains that in order to open this summer funds need to be collected by the end of February. This will ensure that all parts are ordered with time to construct the facility.
While the group has received very positive feedback from the town, they still need more approvals before construction can begin on the project. These include presenting the design to immediate neighbors, a public hearing and finally a presentation to the Planning and Zoning Commission.
If approvals are not met all donations will be refunded.
The volunteers have been working alongside a Parks and Recreation subcommittee to bring this idea to fruition.
“The commission is supportive of this,” says Parks and Recreation Director Rick Maynard.
“It’s something that will be a benefit to the community,” he adds. “Something the community doesn’t have.”
Another town group that supports the splash pad is the Board of Selectman.
“It’s a very interesting concept and idea,” says First Selectman Matt Hoey. “…we approved moving to the next phase, which is design and fundraising.
“I think this has an opportunity to be of great benefit to the community,” he adds. “Providing an opportunity for young families to have their kids be outdoors and enjoying the community is something that I’m very supportive of.”
Sorrentino is excited about sharing the design with everyone in town.
“I think it’s going to be an amazing enhancement,” she says “We have a beautiful beach, so work has been done by the town and it’s just gorgeous.
“I see this as an enhancement to that,” she adds. “I think it’s going to be a real asset to the community because it’s inclusive, it’s a really fun way to have safe, water play for people of all ages.”
Professional drawings for the 30-by-50-feet oval splash pad were created by Milford’s Schmidt Design Group. Plans call for the addition to be located in the northeast corner of Jacob’s Beach, right in front the playscape.
The splash pad, designed for all ages, features both a toddler and family zone. It primarily consists of ground fountains with specific focus and attention to materials and colors that will blend in with the natural features of Jacobs Beach.
Boulders and wooden elements, that can serve as seating or climbing structures, are incorporated into the perimeter of the dry deck.
“We’ve tried to be very thoughtful with our design in the sense of, we specifically designed this to be very natural looking,” Sorrentino says. “We want it to blend in with the aesthetic of the beach. It’s almost all ground fountains and all the water nozzles are water conserving,”.
In addition, Maynard says, the town requested that rain guards be incorporated into the flow through the system to recycle some of the water.
“The water runs off into these guards and it waters the gardens,” he says. “We just wanted to make sure some of that water gets reused and we’re not just letting it run off and you never see it again.”
Veronica Wallace, a grandmother to three toddlers, has travelled to splash pads for her family to enjoy, but is passionate about bringing one to Guilford.
“For me it was because I had three little toddlers that just love to play in water,” she says. “I was going to East Haven and I was going to Old Saybrook and I’m looking around saying, ‘Why doesn’t Guilford have this? We have so many great parks. We ought to have something like this.’ ”
The idea has been circulating for a number of years, but it was Sorrentino that reignited it last summer of 2018.
“I have two small kids … so we’re right in that perfect demographic, young family, two kids where going to the beach is difficult,” she says.
It was a Facebook post that really fueled local enthusiasm.
“It took off like wildfire,” says Sorrentino.
“So many parents were like, ‘Yes, that would be amazing. I would love that. It’s so hard for me to get to the beach with my children.’”
While Sorrentino knew that small children would love the idea of a splash pad, the more research she did she realized it would cater to a much wider audience.
“This is a really inclusive facility for families that have special needs or for people who are more elderly and can’t get down and into the water to cool off,” she says.
“We’ve tried to be very thoughtful about every piece that’s gone into this to make sure that it’s going to be a nice fit for the location at the beach, but also for the town and what’s important to people in the town, as a whole,” she adds.
Maynard agrees that this addition will be a positive addition to the beach in a lot of different ways.
“I think it will be another draw,” he says. “We’re not doing it for this reason, but it could be another revenue source for the town because maybe we end up selling more beach passes, maybe it gets rented out for birthday parties. It certainly can be used by our day camp, which would be another amenity for camp down there.”
Sorrentino envisions the splash pad as being a very positive community project, from start to finish.
“We’re building something more than just a splash pad,” she says. “I view this as an asset for the community, but it’s also we’re fostering community in the build.
“This will be a place where families can meet each other,” she adds. “This is going to be a place where you meet up with your old friends, you make new friends, you create memories.”
Upcoming fundraisers include Saturday, Feb. 1, 11 a.m., Kids Cooking Class with Mary’s Culinary Classes; Thursday, Feb. 6, 7 p.m., Barre Class at Prive Swiss Fitness in Madison; Until Monday, Feb. 3, Pampered Chef Fundraiser by Jaime Wood and Tuesday, Feb. 25, 6:30 p.m., Paint Night with Pam’s Picassos at the Guilford VFW Hall. For more information visit The Splash Pad Guilford, CT Facebook.