Plans for converting the swimming pool at The Fort into a modern spray park continue


Arlington Civic Council has taken the first steps in working with the city to demolish the unused swimming pool and pool building at The Fort and renovating the land into a modern spray park. Preliminary plans call for an overhaul of most of the park.

Preliminarily plans to rehab The Fort in Arlington call for a multi-phase redevelopment that could include renovations to the ball field, demolition of the former pool house and the installation of a modern spray park.

Ben Simpson, a landscape architect with J.T. Sauer & Associates, LLC on the project, recently brought those preliminary plans to show members of the Arlington Civic Council. He said they were presented with a large expanse of concrete and what to do with the pool and came up with a range of options.

To make the project more financially feasible, they presented a phased approach that would allow the city to make the renovations in steps according to how much funding was available. Currently there isn't money set aside in the budget to complete the project or even begin it, but before funding is designated they needed a proposal.

"What to do with the existing pool," Mr. Simpson began the proposal. The landscape architect with experience in other city spray parks suggested demolition of the pool house and the demolition and filling in of the old swimming pool.

The area would be planted with trees and grass to create a welcoming green space. In addition, two pavilions would be constructed in the area that could be used for shade or to hold picnics and events. The pavilions would be able to hold 100 people each.

Another phase would be the addition of the spray park next to the existing playground. He said the spray parks are only "limited by their imagination" and could include little fountains and coils that dumped higher volumes of water.

"Spray parks have a number of benefits versus pools," Mr. Simpson continued. He said that while pools have a lot of operating costs such as staff time and maintenance, the spray parks can use new clean water each time; they have non-slip surfaces; are handicapped accessible; and, for non-swimmers there is no risk of drowning.

The water park and playground would play off of each other according to Mr. Simpson.

Plans also call for some of the existing restroom building to be demolished and the remainder of the building renovated for restroom facilities or use by staff or for both reasons.

Sauntee Turner, from Citiparks, added that some spray parks in the city are slated to use new water each time and some are planned for recycled filtered water, depending on the sanitation system at the individual parks.

A trail network is proposed around the park and ballfield that would be approximately one-quarter mile long. The trail would include several "life stations," or exercise stations that would be designed with older adults in mind.

The hillside around the ballfield could be expanded for benches or bleachers. Several members of the audience asked if it would be possible to add a concession stand to the plans.

While it could be possible, according to Mr. Simpson, it would mean taking something away from allotted space and possible funding to erect the building.

One of the phases, probably Phase One, would include refurbishing the dec hockey and basketball courts on the upper portion of the park. They would also like to upgrade the playground and safety surface as part of the renovations and could look at adding into phase two of the project.

Mr. Simpson said that they aren't proposing to fence in the park, except in the ballfield area.

"Fences don't create an inviting area," he said. Instead, they plan to use low walls around some of the areas. The walls would be high enough to keep younger children from taking a tumble over the slopes.

Concerns were expressed that without (and even with) fences that the park would be the target of vandals.

"The best policing is the community," Ms. Turner said. The neighborhood would have to be vigilant in keeping an eye on their park. In addition, graffiti resistant materials would be used in the construction of the park.

"When we design, we try to keep that in mind," she said.

The final part of the proposal presented was for a city outline mural in rock and stone to be constructed along the hillside.

After the presentation, Mr. Simpson said that if the neighborhood approved of the plan, the next step would be to talk to Citiparks about getting it on the schedule.

Ms. Turner said that while the spray park and other renovations to The Fort are not in the budget for 2008 or 2009, it might be possible for 2010.


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