Splash: A floating water park may come to Green Lake

HATTIE SHERWOOD PARK beach sports similar foam pads to ones purchased from The ParadisePad, above. Green Lake committee members noted the foam pads are popular among kids. The ParadisePad photo

by Hannah Tetzlaff

In the next few years, Green Lake could become the home to a “floating rubber city.”

As Ald. Liane Walsh described the idea to fellow Economic Development Committee members this past May, she explained the city could consider purchasing floating inflatables.

The inflatables, whether a slide or rock wall or trampoline, could be anchored in the water at Hattie Sherwood Park beach, creating a floating water park.

Over the last year or more, the committee has been considering ways to draw more visitors and tourists to Green Lake.

The floating water park was one of several ideas.

Economic Development Coordinator Bob Gintoft had created a list of other possibilities such as horseback riding, a splash pad, zip lines from trees to water and more.

However, Walsh, who is also the executive director of the Green Lake Area Chamber of Commerce, noted the attraction should draw people to the lake and its water since that is one of the things that make the area unique.

Thus the birth of the floating “rubber city” or “water park” idea, as Walsh called it.

As an avid swimmer and lover of adventure, this concept calls to me. And if executed, it could draw individuals of all ages, from young kids and families to young adults like me and older, who are still kids at heart.

It seems I’m not the only one excited about this new possibility for Green Lake.

As the Economic Development Committee continues to consider the concept, it  seems to be more on board with the idea and is putting time and energy into researching the possibility.

Just recently, Walsh presented to the committee some findings she discovered in her research.

She pointed to a large, interconnected water park called “Adventure Island,” located at Bear Paw Beach in Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park in Caledonia, Wis.

A SCREENSHOT ILLUSTRATES the Adventure Island at Yogi Bear’s Jellystone Park in Caledonia, Wis., that  Ald. Liane Walsh showed to fellow Economic Development Committee members as an example of a floating water park that Green Lake could create at Hattie Sherwood Park beach.

“I’ve had some friends that were there this last week and they said the experience was phenomenal,” Walsh said. “They paid … $14 a day, ages 3 and up, they were paying, and they said it didn’t stop people not one bit, that people were coming in droves to play on it.”

She noted people at the campground beach could rent cabanas as well.

“There’s so many things we can do, I think, at Hattie Sherwood beach to make this happen,” Walsh said, noting they could sell merchandise or pre-packaged snacks for kids. “[The list of possibilities] could just go on and on.”

Though she’s done some research, she pointed out she wasn’t yet able to answer questions about insurance and security at night for the water park or cost of the project.

“I wanted to show you a better example of what I was thinking of for enhancing what we already have and creating an experience here in Green Lake,” Walsh said. “This is just all early, early phases, but I think it’s something that we should seriously look at.”

Currently, Green Lake does offer some water entertainment at Hattie Sherwood Park beach.

The Park & Recreation Board purchased foam water pads for the beach, which Mayor Jon McConnell and committee member Tim Jankowski believe to be popular with youngsters.

“I see kids all over those things on a hot day,” Jankowski said. “They seem to like those.”

“Oh, absolutely,” McConnell said.

“Because it gave a little experience out there,” Walsh said.

Jankowski noted “we didn’t have this kind of stuff when we were a kid.”

McConnell explained the committee would have to approach the Park & Recreation Board with its idea before it proceeds any further since it would be the board that would need to make a recommendation to the Green Lake City Council for an inflatable water park.

However, since the foam pads seem to be a big hit, an inflatable water park may not be too far off in the future.

“I think it’s a great idea that’s really worth researching, anyway, because we’ve all [been] talking for a long time about some kind of a water thing here — splash pad, a water park, this and that — well, here’s our water park,” committee member Fran Hill said. “It’s capitalizing on what we have and making it kid-friendly.”

Potential Road Blocks

Though the Economic Development Committee seems to support a floating water park, there could be some obstacles.

First, committee members, such as Hill and Walsh, need to do more research, which could be fruitful or not.

I’m optimistic.

Second, the committee will need to present the idea to the Park & Recreation Board and gain support from the board.

For that to occur, Hill noted, it should have a well-researched plan and cohesive proposal to give to the board to increase the chances of approval for the idea.

Third, cost may be an issue.

McConnell noted the foam water pads the Park & Recreation Board bought a few years ago were about $700 each and were used or damaged, meaning the inflatable parts for the water park could be more expensive.

Another issue would be lifeguards.

“There would have to be, I’m sure, lifeguards involved and somebody to manage it and everything else like that; that would all come out of their budget, so that’s why it’s got to be in conjunction with Park & Rec,” McConnell said.

He has noted at other meetings, such as Green Lake City Council meeting, that the Park & Recreation Board has struggled with finding lifeguards for Hattie Sherwood Park Beach. This year alone, there was only one applicant, who didn’t want to work weekends, which McConnell noted are some of the busiest times for the beach.

Because of that, the individual was not hired, and Park & Recreation was left with no one for a lifeguard.

McConnell explained this has been an ongoing issue over the years.

However, committee member and Ald. Dusty Walker noted a floating water park may be more interesting to watch than people just going in and out of the water.

“If you have more activities and you have something like this, they might be more interested,” she said. “But we don’t know that. This is all baby steps.”

As of now, Hill and Walsh will continue to research the concept before the committee brings a proposal before the Park & Recreation Board.

If the city of Green Lake does create a floating water park out by Hattie Sherwood Park, I will be one of the first ones out there, playing on it, making sure it’s fun enough for everyone else.

While talking with Walsh on the phone about the idea, I mentioned I would be willing to test it out first. However, she told me she would be first.

Laughing, I suggested we could be water safety buddies, then.

Though the concept is still in its infancy, if the inflatable water park gains support from the Park & Recreation Board, the City Council and Green Lake community, then in the next few years, you may just witness me jumping and splashing around at Hattie Sherwood Park beach.

Hannah Tetzlaff can be reached by emailing hannahtetz@riponprinters.com or by calling the Ripon Commonwealth Press office at 748-3017.