COTTONWOOD HEIGHTS, Utah — Some Cottonwood Heights residents are upset after the city announced it would not open a popular splash pad at the Mountainview Park for the 2021 summer season.
It is the second year in a row that the splash pad has been closed. Last year was due to the pandemic, and this year it's due to the extreme drought conditions across Utah.
"We were so excited to get the splash pad up and going again and then all of a sudden we get that shortage of snow in the winter and now we're not having enough water," said Ben Hill, executive director of the Cottonwood Heights Parks and Recreation Service Area.
After Gov. Spencer Cox declared a state of emergency because of worsening drought conditions, Hill and city officials met to discuss water usage plans for city recreation facilities.
"We decided that in the best interest of what the Governor has asked, and following the Governor's directions regarding the drought, to not open for the 2021 season," Hill said.
The decision is not sitting well with some area residents.
"If it could be running, the kids would enjoy it," said Mark Greer. "They had a lot of misery this past year, letting them run the splash pad would be great."
"To take away the water and the splash pad from the children, especially after the pandemic, is just disappointing," added Matt Springer.
The splash pad was built almost ten years ago, and uses fresh, culinary water which goes right into the sewer after it's used.
"We don't recycle it," Hill said. "It was designed that way and there is a lot of benefits to having it be fresh water."
He says by shutting it off, the city will save a substantial amount of water.
"We estimated it's about 2.4 million gallons of water that we're saving this year to help with the drought situation," Hill added.
With the likelihood that Utah will continue to face drought conditions in the years to come, Hill said the city is exploring options to make the splash pad more water efficient.
"You can recycle the water enough and treat it to where then you water the grass with it," Hill said. "If we can get to that point, I think that's the best case scenario in all situations."
But residents say there are things the city can do now to open it up.
"They could do an every other day type of schedule to where like maybe Monday, Wednesday, Friday it's on with Tuesdays and Thursdays off," Springer added.
Hill says the city is looking into that option, but they are concerned that only running it a few days will cause a lot of people to gather, and they are still concerned about community transmission of COVID-19. He added that if things continue to improve in terms of the pandemic, the splash pad could make a return with a limited schedule later this summer.