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Water park opening at Spring Lake

A novel new water feature is being added to the swimming lagoon at Spring Lake Regional Park this summer to try to boost attendance at the seasonal swimming hole in east Santa Rosa.

A floating water park has been installed in a section of the lagoon and will open to the public for a fee Saturday.

“We’re pumped. It’s really exciting,” said David Robinson, a program manager for the county park system.

Parks staff this week installed a series of about 20 brightly colored inflatable water features from a German company called Wibit Sports.

The attraction will be open daily from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. and will operate through Labor Day. Full day passes to the park cost $10 for kids 6 and up, $15 for adults, and $45 for a family of four. Children 5 and under are not allowed in the park.

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The county hopes the water park will increase usage of the swimming lagoon, which has seen a steady drop in attendance over the years.

About 15 years ago, the lagoon saw about 75,000 to 80,000 visitors annually, but the average over the past few years has been about 30,000 people, Robinson said. That sharp drop has occurred even as usage of the overall park is up, he said.

He called the swimming lagoon a “gem,” with clean water, experienced lifeguards, no additional fee to swim, and a popular concession stand.

“This is a great place. It’s just underutilized,” he said.

He speculated that the lower cost of inflatable backyard pools could be partly responsible for the drop in attendance. There were some cases of swimmers itch in the lagoon about 12 years ago, but since then the water is chlorinated, he said.

The slides, bounce islands, climbing cliffs, bouncy bridge, trampoline and other features cost about $55,000 to purchase, and will likely require two additional lifeguards to monitor, Robinson said.

It is hoped that the fees charged will pay for the equipment cost and additional staffing, he said. The features are guaranteed for three years. Park hopes to be able to add new ones in future years.

Installing a water park at the lagoon has been under consideration for a few years, but it took time to find the right system, Robinson said. Park managers liked Wibit because it makes different structures for different environments, he said.

The equipment chosen for the lagoon is appropriate for the relatively shallow lagoon, which is about 14 feet at its deepest point, he said.

The only safety issue that staff members are aware of involved a three-story feature, in the shape of an iceberg, at another facility. Someone jumped off the iceberg onto another swimmer’s arm, he said.

To increase the safety, users will be required to wear life jackets. A maximum of 60 people will be allowed to use the park at one time. If more than 60 sign up, the two groups will be formed and rotated every 45 minutes, Robinson said.

People will probably welcome rotations because it will give them a much-needed rest.

“I was out there for 20 minutes helping the lifeguards set it up and it was exhausting,” Robinson said.

You can reach Staff Writer Kevin McCallum at 521-5207 or kevin.mccallum@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @srcitybeat.

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