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Al Key

Just add water

Profile image for By Lucinda Breeding
By Lucinda Breeding
Four-year-old Kameron Hypes plays at the splash pad at the Shops of Highland Village on Monday.Al Key
Four-year-old Kameron Hypes plays at the splash pad at the Shops of Highland Village on Monday.
Al Key

Local moms can barely get their little ones to slow down and strip down to bathing suits. The kids are locked on to the splash pad in the middle of some of the busiest businesses at the Shops at Highland Village.

As soon as moms give the greenlight, the children scamper into the jets of water shooting from the simple concrete pad. Boys play tag from jet to jet, occasionally stopping at an idle spot, poised to thrust themselves into the cool, arching bar of water that will shoot into the air at any minute. Lulu Briggle, a tiny tot clapping her hands through the water, occasionally picks up a pink rubber dinosaur, either to bath him in the geyser or place his toothy, open mouth over the spray.

If she can stir up enough interest — about $100,000 of interest by Sept. 17, to be exact — Amber Briggle, Lulu’s mom and Denton resident, will have done everything in her power to bring a free splash pad to Denton.

“We were on vacation in Boulder, in Colorado, and the kids were playing in a splash pad. I was sitting there drinking wine and just kind of said, ‘We need one of these in Denton, and I’m going to make it happen,’” said Briggle, who juggles parenting Lulu and her big sister, Gracie, with her husband and college professor, Adam. Amber Briggle also owns and operates a massage therapy in Denton.

Briggle serves on the Citizen Community Development Advisory Board and harnessed her network through the board and among her friends to launch a fundraising campaign on, an online crowd-sourcing site. Unlike, which poses all-or-nothing campaigns, allows fundraisers to keep what they’ve raised after paying a percentage to the site.

Briggle started plotting her strategy as soon as she got back from vacation. The first step was a letter to the Denton Parks & Recreation Department.

Briggle said she was thrilled when Emerson Vorel, director of the parks department, responded saying a splash pad was something the department had been interested in building.

Vorel said splash pads have been popping up in cities of all sizes across the country.

“It’s a wonderful amenity in the parks,” he said. “In the Texas heat, if you have a splash pad, there’s an opportunity for the kids and the adults to be outside and be in the water.”

Vorel said a splash pad showed up on what he calls the parks department staff’s “wish list” for 2014, and that residents have asked for one before.

“We didn’t get to the splash pad, because we had many more projects than money to pay for them, of course,” he said. “But just because we didn’t get to it doesn’t mean we don’t still want one.”

For families with children in Denton, summers present unique challenges, Briggle said.

“It’s hot. We have kids,” she said. “We’re off to the park first thing in the morning, and the civic center pool is pretty busy with camps and just the people who want to cool off. But by noon, it’s really hot.”

Briggle said that she often waits to take her children to the pool until 3 p.m., when ozone levels in the air tend to drop and the sun is on its way down.

“As much as I love the pool, the staff is pretty much made up of teenagers who lifeguard. So when school starts back up, they’re gone,” Briggle said.

Local moms said the civic center pool is convenient and well-maintained. All of the moms at the Highland Village shopping center sang the praises of Water Works Park, the city’s park with giant slides, wading pools and lazy river. But the pool and water park aren’t accessible to all moms in the city, they pointed out.

Heidi Thaden-Pierce has six children.

“They’ve invested in Water Works Park, and it’s great. It’s wonderful. But it’s $80 to take a family to Water Works Park one time with six children,” Thaden-Pierce said. “You know, for smaller families, it’s still a lot. Maybe more than you can afford for as much as you’d like to take your children.”

Thaden-Pierce said she and her children visit the Denton parks about six days a week. But the triple-digit days of summer — and the many days when the highs reach the upper 90s — make the park impractical from noon and until dusk. The dangers aren’t just sunburn, heat exhaustion or heat stroke, she said.

“My son [Bennett] went down the slide one day when we were in the park and he came off of it screaming,” she said. “Blisters were coming up on his hands. The slide burned him. We didn’t think we needed to worry about a plastic slide, but that’s how hot it was.”

Anyah Martinez, a Denton mother of three, agreed.

“My husband works full time and makes a fine living,” she said. “But we live on the opposite side of town from the water park. I can afford it, but it would be so nice to have something like this in Fred Moore Park.”

Fred Moore Park is located close to downtown in Southeast Denton — close to the A-Train and central city bus station.

Vorel said Briggle is the first resident he knows of who has proposed a community drive to cover the cost of a splash pad.

Spalsh pads don’t come cheap, either. Vorel said a simple project — a small plot of concrete with a circle of water jets — would likely cost about $200,000. A city can spend more for a larger pad with more features, such as aerial buckets that fill with water and then tip over, small water slides and overhead sprays. More elaborate pads have interactive features, such as basins that children can fill and tip over, or jets that shoot water through swiveling heads. Others have water canons.

Vorel broke down the costs of a simple splash pad:

The city would have to install a new tap at the splash pad area, because the city wouldn’t be able to “tie in” to an existing water system, such as a sprinkler system. A new tap would be one of the more expensive portions of the project.

The water would have to be tied into sanitary sewer for filtration and cleaning.

Water would be re-circulated back to the pad, and then kept in underground storage when the water jets are idle.

Installation and maintenance of the pumps that move water to jets during operation.

Vorel pinpointed one cost savings of a splash pad: Because a splash pad doesn’t include standing water, no lifeguards are needed. Moms of toddlers liked that, too.

“The pool can be a lot of work,” Thaden-Pierce said. “You have to pack up to get there, and then once you’re there, if you’ve got a couple of kids, you’ve got some who can swim and, in my case, some who don’t yet.”

For Briggle, the real gift of the proposed splash pad project would be that it would be free.

“That can make such a big difference for families,” she said.

There are additional costs, but first, Vorel said that the fundraiser and proposal would have to be passed by the Denton Parks Foundation. The foundation would ultimately hold any money raised through the fundraiser.

The foundation accepts and disperses sponsorships for a number of community initiatives and projects — including Clear Creek Natural Heritage Center and Wiggly Field dog park, among others.

Vorel said he expects the foundation to pass the proposal, but the board was to meet Wednesday afternoon, after this article went to press.

Neither Vorel nor Briggle said they could anticipate when the proposed splash pad might be started.

“If we had the funding — all of the funding — we’d have to go through the planning and design, then bid it out and then it’s got to go for council approvals,” Vorel said. “Is it realistic to think this would be built by next summer? Probably not. It’s still a significant amount of money to come up with, and it has to go through the process.”

In the meantime, Briggle and other volunteers plan to push the fundraiser as far as they can.

“I really want this to be a community project,” she said. “A free splash pad would benefit so many people.”

To donate to the fundraiser, visit

LUCINDA BREEDING can be reached at 940-566-6877.

How to help buy a splash pad

If you donate to the fundraising campaign to bring a free splash pad to Denton, here’s what you can get:

$20 – gift certificate for a free ice cream cone at Beth Marie’s

$35 – one of three first edition books signed by local author Colin Winnette; Supply is limited

$50 – two hours of babysitting provided by a local licensed childcare owner

$75 – a $50 discount on tuition at Hilltop Montessori School in Denton

$100 – A guest DJ spot for one hour at; A one-hour Massage from Soma Massage Therapy

$150 – unlimited sessions over a two-week period at Denton Taekwondo Academy; An engraved brick in honor of a person or organization at the splash pad

$250 – a 2014 Season Family Pass to Denton Civic Center Pool; A “Drink & Think” political discussion hosted by Denton City Councilman Kevin Roden for you and seven of your friends; a free general pest treatment from Natural Pest Solutions if you live within the company’s treatment area

$300 –One individual all-access pass to the Denton Parks & Recreation recreation center pass; good for 12 months; A free spot for you and nine of your friends on the Ghosts of Denton tour, or credit for a basic birthday package for up to 20 attendees at Lone Star Lanes skating rink in Denton

$450 – a 2014 season family pass to Water Works Park

$500 – a family pass to the Denton natatorium, good for one year; a private house show concert from Paul Slavens

Peruse the perks at