Rosemount residents are finding the new splash pad at Central Park a good way to cool off.

"Especially for a twin mom, it's wonderful." said Nichole Hall, of Rosemount, who was enjoying the new water play area with her 20-month-old twins. At a pool, she said, she would have to have another adult to help watch the kids. But here she can watch as they both toddle about. Already by opening week she had visited a couple of times.

"All the different water chutes," she said. "They love it."

The new water play area, north of City Hall, opened late in July. It's about 4,000 square feet, with tall gushers for older kids and short fountains and misters for little ones.

In one section, water jets form a tunnel for kids to run through. In a "water journey" area, kids pump a handle seven times, and a rush of water flows through creek-like channels, past gates and water wheels, and gathers in tiny flood plains.

Erin Moyer, a resident of Rosemount for nine years who recently moved to Apple Valley, had heard it was opening and wanted to come check it out. She sat by her three-week-old son in a stroller, while her 4-year-old daughter raced around.

"She likes to bring her bucket and fill it up and make 'stew,'" said Moyer. "It's great."

Tammy Ford, of Rosemount, said her two-year-old grandson, Easton Ford, had been playing for two hours.

"He was driving cars in the little ravine," she said. "We have little boats we'll bring next time."

Ford likes that it is free and that she can be nearby interacting but doesn't have to get wet. "I wish they would have had this when my kids were little," she said. "It would have made summers a lot nicer."

Ford said they had been driving to the splash pad in Apple Valley prior to this one opening up. Now, she said, they can walk.

Downtown attraction

Parks and Recreation Director Dan Schultz said the splash pad, with a price tag of $821,000, is part of a larger effort to bring people together in the downtown area. The city, he said, has a long-term goal of making the area more of a central hub for activities.

Officials would "like to see more things brought down to Central Park," he said, making the area "more of a destination location year round."

Around the perimeter of the splash pad, the city planted trees and shrubs, and along the hillside to the east, seeded native prairie.

Schultz said people have floated a number of ideas aimed at continuing to develop the surrounding area.

Ideas for phase two include a natural playground nearby as well as a fire pit for teens.

There is also talk of making the asphalt area to the west of the splash pad into more of a dedicated special events area. Community events are already held there, and improvements such as decorative lighting and landscaping could be made.

Rosemount Mayor Bill Droste said the city is actively investing in the core downtown area.

He pointed to the opening of the Rosemount Transit Station in December 2012 as well as the recent approval of two senior housing developments in the area. One is next to the nearby Steeple Center and Robert Trail Library, another near Lower 147th Street.

As the city continues to develop the downtown area, the mayor said, it wants to make sure it is used by a variety of age groups.

Pool or pad?

The City Council started weighing the option of installing either a pool or a splash pad two years ago, the mayor said. He has typically received a couple letters each year asking why the community didn't have a swimming pool and complaining about having to drive to other towns to find one.

However, "swimming pools are quite expensive," he said.

The splash pad, on the other hand, "costs very little to operate," said Rosemount City Administrator Dwight Johnson.

A splash pad doesn't require hiring lifeguards and other employees. It also requires "very low maintenance," said Johnson. Basically, he said, someone checks on it daily to see that it's working.

Johnson said officials also liked the idea of creating a relaxing setting for parents and caretakers.

Nancy Messner, of Rosemount, visiting for the first time, with her grandkids, ages three and one, echoed that idea. "When you take them to the pool," she said, "you've got to be in the water with them."

She also liked the open view from where she sat on the side, she said, as she could see all the way through to the other side of the play area and keep track of her grandkids.

Growth plans

The splash pad has several capped faucets throughout the area, where the city can, in future years, install overhead jets and other features.

"We can add some elements to it year by year," said Droste. "We can add little umbrellas or a tree that sprays water out of it."

The sprayers are designed so they shut off automatically within four minutes, and a button must be pushed to make it start again.

Schultz estimates the new water play area will use approximately 4 to 5 million gallons of water annually. For the time being, the water will be routed into a nearby holding pond. In the future, officials hope to use runoff to water nearby sports fields. However, officials plan to spend a year monitoring water usage to see if that is a possibility. Also, said Droste, that project will require the additional cost of installing piping.

Schultz said the city also will need to assess whether or not to add additional parking areas in the future. He said it's hoped that on really busy days, people will be able to find parking in the downtown area.

However, if parking proves to be an issue, said Johnson, the city could perhaps move some nearby storage buildings.

Johnson said that the splash pad is basically outside his window, and that when the weather is nice, he sees "dozens and dozens of kids."

"It's fun to watch," he said.

Liz Rolfsmeier is a freelance writer.