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The spray ground at Castle Rock Park opened last Saturday with kids and the mayor clipping a ribbon then dashing into the water.

Mayor Ron Tussing was soaked but grinning as he and about a dozen kids bounded across the red, white and blue concrete surface and splashed water.

Some of the about 50 adults and kids at the grand opening got sprinkled before the ceremony when the park's sprinklers kicked on. Unlike the children who would later run into the water in the spray ground, most of the adults high-stepped out of the path of the irrigation system.

While he was still dry, Tussing said that the opening was a "great day because Heights families can now have a place to take their kids that's close."

Denis Pitman, who is chairman of the Heights Task Force and the city Parks, Recreation and Cemetery Board, said it was hard to believe that it was just a few months ago — in March — when a smaller group gathered and with gold-painted shovels to turn the first dirt to start construction.

"Let's get that water on!" Pitman said.

Tussing and the kids lined up with the blue-blazer clad group from the Chamber of Commerce and together clipped the blue ribbon to ceremonially open the spray ground. After a countdown and a pause, the water flowed and the kids ran for it.

The age-appropriate spray ground has all sorts of fun and bright-colored features, from the ground-level features for tots that spray similar to lawn sprinklers to the water cannons on posts for older kids to spray each other. Water also sprays from poles that can be twirled and dumps from buckets at the top of another pole.

The Castle Rock Middle School Builders Club and Billings Exchange Club planted trees, and a picnic table is near the spray ground, which is located near the park's rest rooms.

The city funded the Castle Rock spray park through its 2005-06 capital improvement projects budget. The $218,000 project replaces the wading pool that, along with wading pools at Highland and Veterans parks, was closed in 2000 because it did not meet state health codes.

During the grand opening on Saturday morning, Joe Fedin, city superintendent of recreation, said the spray ground is a quality-of-life facility for kids today and for years to come.

"It is a legacy for our generation to pass on to the next generation," Fedin said.

The spray park can be open longer than the regular aquatic season and is low-maintenance, he said.

One of the advantages of the spray park design is that water from the 2,000-square-foot play area will drain underground to the irrigation pond in the park and be used to water the park, he said.

There were a few moments of trepidation among the adults as they realized the drain wasn't working quite properly. The kids continued to play as a manhole cover was removed and, eventually, one short section of the drain cover. A few adults got wet trying to isolate the problem, but their shrieks and jumps just made it more fun for the kids.

The problem was that a basket designed to keep debris out of the system had clogged with some grass clippings. Engineers and designers on hand for the opening decided that, because the water flows back to the irrigation pond rather than the storm water system and the drain covers have small slits to keep out most debris, it would be OK to remove the basket. The water started flowing immediately.

Jolene Rieck of the firm Plains to Peaks, which designed the spray park, recognized Donarae Williams and Lee Llewlyn from AME Construction for "outstanding craftsmanship" in building the spray park.

Interstate Engineering Inc. was also involved in the design. Construction, which started in early March, was completed by AME and about 10 local subcontractors and vendors.

Contact Becky Shay at bshay@billingsgazette.com or 657-1231.

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