July 2, 2010

'This is the way the fountain was meant to be enjoyed'

All smiles, from Selena Badillo, Aliya Bender and Joseph Espinoza

Finally, some good news: The fountain is open!

Yes, Racine's Laural Salton Clark Memorial Fountain, built seven years ago as a splash pad for kids but living under the death sentence of uncaring state legislation since 2005, reopened Saturday -- safe and legal.

Mayor John Dickert was joined for a short press conference by Lynne Salton, younger sister of astronaut Laurel Clark who died in the space shuttle Columbia disaster in 2003 -- at the reopening. Lynne Salton's presence was by chance, serendipitous. A Horlick High grad like her older sister, Lynne just happened to be in town for her 30th class reunion.  Lynne graduated a year behind her sister Laurel, who was a 1979 Horlick grad as it says on the splash pad.

 The mayor focused on the "incredible partnership" between the city and the Johnson family, which offered approximately $200,000 this summer to bring the fountain up to code, in compliance with state laws imposed in 2005. The upgrades -- new chlorination equipment, fencing, an emergency telephone -- make the fountain "clean and safe," the mayor said, and the city will "continue to take action to make this entire project sustainable for years to come."

Lynne looked at it from another angle, from the point of view of the many kids already happily running through the fountain when she and the mayor arrived for his announcement. "This is the way the fountain was meant to be enjoyed," she said, remembering similar joy on the day it was dedicated.

"Whenever I come to Racine, I make it a point to come to the fountain," she said. "It was so sad when the public couldn't be enjoying it."

"I'm so excited! It's wonderful," she said.

To prove the point, she and Dickert ran joyously through the fountain -- he in suitpants, shirt and tie. Yes, they got wet; that was the whole point.

City Administrator Tom Friedel said the work done on the fountain in the past week "just restored what was damaged before." A pole for the law-required land-line emergency phone has been installed at the east edge of the fountain -- the phone itself is due on Tuesday.

More work will be needed, because the water system was not built to handle the volume of chlorinated water -- upwards of 50,000 gallons per day -- that the fountain now uses. The city has an engineering firm looking at alternatives; the main jet in the fountain's center may have to be scaled back, or a narrower nozzle used, and some of the other features of the fountain may be changed -- but not so much that it would affect children's enjoyment of it. Smaller grates, for example, to make sure that little toes can't get caught in them; that sort of thing.

"We don't want to lose the effect," Friedel said.

Mayor John Dickert gathered all the kids from the fountain, 
along with Lynne Salton, younger sister of astronaut
Laurel Salton Clark, to whom the fountain is dedicated...

...then he and Lynne Salton ran through the fountain together...

All smiles (and wet hair) as they obey the new rule for Splash Pad use:
'Having fun and laughing are strongly encouraged.'