More than 1,000 people visit spray park on opening day
By Ashley M. Casey
Sunny skies shined over Lysander Park last Friday as the town held a day-long grand opening celebration for the new spray park. While thunder and lightning in the evening forced the town to cancel its planned fireworks display, the weather held out all afternoon, allowing more than 1,000 people to pass through the spray park’s gates on its first day.
“We did it,” said Recreation Supervisor Tony Burkinshaw. “I’m ecstatic. It’s finally here, the weather held out.”
“This is what I’ve been telling you about for two and a half years,” said Town Supervisor Joe Saraceni. “The nice thing is seeing all the families all together: dads, moms, little ones.”
According to spray park committee member Kim Lane, 75 eager children had already lined up before the slated noon opening time Aug. 16. Foot traffic in the spray park remained steady throughout the afternoon, Lane said.
“Hearing the squealing and the laughing, they’re so cute,” she said. “This parking lot was full for being a Friday at 11 a.m. It was pretty nice.”
Amy Elkins, of Baldwinsville, brought her three children to the spray park on opening day. She said she appreciated that it was close to home.
“Normally, we would go to the Camillus one,” Elkins said. “Just something fun — a fun, free way for kids to cool off.”
“And the adults have a place to chit-chat,” added Landon, Elkins’ 7-year-old son.
Since there is no standing water, the risk of drowning is far less than at a pool or beach.
“At a pool, you’re always nervous. You still have to watch them [here], but you don’t have to worry,” Elkins said.
Katrina and Matt Bliven live within walking distance of Lysander Park. They brought their two children, ages 3 and 1.
“It’s a cool thing to have in town,” Matt Bliven said.
“We have little kiddie pools and sprinklers, but now I’m sure this will take priority,” Katrina Bliven said.
Even older kids were enjoying the opportunity to splash around on a hot day. Brenna Lacey, 12, and her 11-year-old sister, McKenna Lacey, have visited the Camillus spray park and wanted to compare the new one in their hometown.
“I just want to try it out,” Brenna said, adding that the Lysander spray park is “pretty nice.”
“I love it,” McKenna said.
The Laceys were playing with their friends, Gianna and Joey Sanfilippo.
Gianna, 12, said 9-year-old Joey had been anxiously awaiting the spray park’s opening day.
“He kept wanting to try it but it wasn’t open yet,” she said.
Joey said he was looking forward to playing in the spray park after Pop Warner football practice. (The Sanfilippos’ grandfather, Carl Sanfilippo, is the head coach of the Baker varsity football team.)
“I like it,” Joey said of the spray park.
Lysander Deputy Supervisor Bob Geraci, who retired from Onondaga County as parks commissioner, surveyed the scene of children frolicking through the spray park, aiming water cannons at each other.
“It’s just so much fun to bring smiles to people’s faces,” Geraci said. “I knew it was going to be a home run — not in any arrogant way, that’s just what kids and parents like.”
Geraci said the spray park is free of many of the pitfalls of beaches and pools. The county was forced to close Jamesville Beach to swimmers for the rest of the summer because of algae, and the beach at William Park in Cicero is closed because of a shortage of lifeguards.
“It’s drinking water, the same one you get when you turn on your faucet,” Geraci said. “Some of those water parks that have lazy rivers that are beautiful, but it’s recirculated water and sometimes things go wrong. That’s how you get outbreaks of E. coli.”
Geraci stressed that the spray park was a team effort largely driven by volunteers.
“We can’t say enough good about them,” he said of the volunteer committee. “They didn’t get paid in dollars and cents, that’s for sure. They did it out of love for the community.”
In a speech before the 6 p.m. ribbon cutting, Saraceni thanked volunteers, town employees and former New York State Sen. John DeFrancisco for making the project a reality.
“These projects don’t happen overnight. It’s taken two and a half years from vetting the project to determine whether it fits in Lysander, funding it, designing it, and now seeing it in action with all these kids behind us playing, I can’t describe to you how rewarding it is,” Saraceni said. “That’s awesome.”
The concrete pad, fence and 27 spray features are Phase I of the project, costing about $344,000. Phase II of the project — changing rooms, a pavilion and an ultraviolet disinfection system — will be built next year.
After voters turned down a proposal to borrow $400,000 for the construction of the spray park last year, DeFrancisco helped secure $200,000 in grant funding toward the project. The town also decided to use money from the in-lieu-of-parks fund, which contained about $240,000.
The spray park is open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily between Memorial Day and Labor Day. Lysander Park is located at 8439 Smokey Hollow Road in Baldwinsville.