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Splash Park provides refuge during heat wave

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SPLASH: Olivia Szelis runs through the rainbow, Thursday, as the group of children play a game of “Try Not to Get Wet,” unsuccessfully, as water splashes from cannons and jets out of the ground.
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DUMP: Casey Carpenter, 5, gets drenched by a bucket of water.

by Andrew Maciejewski - amaciejewski@h-ponline.com

With area pool closings this year, beach closures in the past few weeks and heat indexes near 100 degrees, Huntington residents and visitors from surrounding counties have been crowding the Bendix-Hiner Spray Park.

The free attraction is an oasis for families who want a safe way to get outside while staying cool. Judy Orrison has driven from Ossian two days in a row to take her granddaughter to the park, where she’ll play for hours, since there aren’t many options to get a break from the heat.

“Oubache state park closed their pool and they’re gonna fill it in with dirt. They said it’s too expensive to maintain,” Orrison said. “Then Salamonie Park, they didn’t take the water out of the reservoir so you have to boat with logs in the water and stuff. It’s all over the beach so we couldn’t go there.”

Salamonie Reservoir’s beach opened back up on July 3, according to their website, after the heavy spring rains elevated water levels, which caused a temporary closure.

Ouabache State Park closed their pool for the season last year, and their website says they didn’t open it this year because of declining pool visitation over the past 6 years coupled with repair costs. The website says instead of competing with Bluffton’s pool and splash pads around town, they’ve built a public swimming beach on Kunkel Lake.

Orrison said the public pool in Bluffton is another option for their family, but she said she’s worried it might have fates similar to the public pools that have closed in Fort Wayne, like the pool at Swiney Park.

“You’ve got a real old one in Bluffton, and I bet you that’s gonna be the next one to shut down,” Orrison said. “It’s real old it’s got cracks and stuff.”

Over the past few weeks, Orrison said the splash park, located at 1215 Etna Ave., has seen a lot of action.

“It is just packed with children, which is great,” she said. “We would just run the air in the car and just run back and forth.”

Orrison said she loves the park system in Huntington because they’re well thought out, and once the beach is cleaned up, she said she’s excited to go back to Salamonie Lake.

“Since they’re little, I like this,” she said. “I bought life jackets this year just in case, but we haven’t even used them yet. But, I have them ready.”