Share this article

print logo

Activist thinks MLK Splash Pad should stay open later

City Hall spent $4.5 million dollars for long-awaited, state-of-the-art splash pad at Martin Luther King Park.

It comes with 15-foot-high water sprays that are synchronized with colorful lights.

But a community activist, who has been critical of the delays associated with the project, says the splash pad shouldn’t be turned off at 7 p.m.

“It makes no sense to have a $4 million, state-of-the-art feature,” but not use it more, said Samuel A. Herbert, of the Coalition to Save Martin Luther King Park.

He would like the splash pad to stay open until 10 p.m.

“That’s late at night, and you would have to have some type of security. What if someone got hurt?” said Michael DeGeorge, a spokesman for Mayor Byron W. Brown.

Officials said the city decided to close it at 7 p.m. for a variety of reasons, from public safety and public health to issues of staffing, cost and the fact that the city’s other splash pads close at that time.

The new attraction at MLK Park has water sprays that can be animated and set to different patterns through a computer in City Hall.

Colorful lights in the concrete basin and in the base of a light standard in the middle of the basin reflect off the water.

The idea was to make it a splash pad in the summer months, a reflecting pond in the spring and fall seasons and in the winter make it available for ice skating “if it gets cold enough for it to freeze hard enough for skating,” Brown said.

The concrete mixture used to construct it has never been used in Western New York and is specially designed not to crack. It is expected to last 50 years.

The splash pad had been expected to open last year, but there were construction delays on the project which city officials called “complicated.”

Now that’s it finally up and running, Herbert wants it to stay on until later into the night so that more people can enjoy the whole spectacle.

“The park closes at 10, and you can’t see the lights and the water,” he said.

Keeping the dancing water and fancy lights running later into the night raises safety, security and money issues, City Hall officials said.

“We would have to extend more intense police protection, costing residents more money” and “pull police from more serious areas of concern,” Brown said.

It would involve “additional security, more police and possibly overtime,” DeGeorge said.

There’s also the possibility someone decides to jump into the water when no employees are around, Brown said.

“From a public health and safety aspect, we don’t want people in the wading” basins after staff members get off from work at 7 p.m., he said.

As for staffing and budgetary concerns, if the splash pad stays on later than 7 p.m. “we would get into overtime, more staffing and again more costs,” Brown said.

Brown said that splash pads in other parts of the city shut down at 7 p.m. If an exception was made for the MLK splash pad, neighbors living in communities where other splash pads are located might see it as favoritism, Brown said.

“People in other parts of the city may say ‘Well, you have the MLK splash pad open. Why not open it up in our neighborhood?’ ” Brown said.

He added that the splash pad hours of operation at MLK Park will be extended for special occasions including the Fourth of July, the Pine Grill Reunion and the recent Juneteenth weekend festival.

“This is a world-class feature. We want to show it off,” Brown said. “Because of the reasons I mentioned, it is operated this way.”