First Madison splash zone draws hundreds of children

LILITH SEAMAN, a Madison 7-year-old, ends her trip down the splash zone water slide on Tuesday afternoon with a small splash. Seaman was one of hundreds of boys and girls who played in Madison's temporary water park that was set up on the east side of Baughman-Belatti Park. The children were entertained with a large water slide, slash pads with sprinklers, and super-soakers.

A hot Tuesday afternoon provided a good excuse to get wet.

Attendance by boys and girls and keeping their interest would serve as the best barometers for the success of Madison's first-ever splash zone, and Tuesday's water-soaked event hit high marks in both of those categories.

Hundreds of boys and girls, ranging in age from toddlers to teens, showed up for the summer's first temporary water-park event held on the east side of Baughman-Belatti Park. Dan Buresh, a Madison firefighter, and other organizers had proposed and organized the event to help area children cool off this summer.

Madison's outdoor public pool is currently closed for repairs, so -- at the start of June -- Buresh made a proposal to city commissioners to use an older fire truck belonging to the Madison Fire Department and other equipment to set up temporary water parks in the city on certain days.

The centerpiece for the splash zone was a large water slide set up on a small hill located near the east parking lot. The water slide was constructed from a large tarpaulin that ran down the incline. It was made slippery by water delivered by hoses and sprinklers provided by the city fire department. If the sheeting -- manufactured by Raven Industries in Madison -- didn't cover a half-acre of the hill, it seemed to do so. The water-slide tarp was large enough to accommodate young sliders from two lines who wanted to take trips down the slope. However, the supervisors had the children make staggered runs down the incline to avoid collisions.

The temporary water park was scheduled for operation from 2-4 p.m., and about halfway through the event, Katalina Shoenrock, a Madison 8-year-old, took a break from the action. Shoenrock had fun on the large slip-and-slide, saying she traveled down the wet tarp "...about 20 or 30 times." She said sliders should prepare themselves for playing in some cold water and advised that they slide down on their stomachs for the best trips.

The water-park attendees were looking for relief from the afternoon heat on Tuesday. Temperature displays in Madison indicated that the mercury had hit the low 90s.

The organizers of the water park also set up two splash pads with sprinklers for boys and girls to play in. The children could also cool off by spraying each other with about a dozen water-blasters.

Two 7-year-old girls, Serenity Haak and Lilith Seaman, both of Madison, gave the event their "thumbs-up" approval soon after the temporary water park opened. Within 20 minutes after its opening, Seaman had traveled down the large slip-and-slide three times and Haak had made the trip twice. Haak admitted to some nervousness during the first attempt, but she gave her seal of approval with an "it's fun" rating.

The event also drew many adults to Baughman-Belatti Park, although the parents and grandparents were more inclined toward finding a cool spot under a shade tree than playing with the water-blasters or standing under the sprinklers at a splash pad.

The next splash-zone event is scheduled from 6:30-8:30 p.m. in Westside Park (the Madison Aquatic Center location) on Thursday. Additional splash zones are planned from 2-4 p.m. on June 15 in Memorial Park and 6:30-8:30 p.m. on June 17 in Totland Park.