The children’s play area in Priory Park reopened on Friday 7 July following a seven-week closure.
Reigate & Banstead Borough Council has installed new splash play equipment, with jets that spray water at various heights, pressures and patterns.
Instead of the sand, there’s now rubber flooring, coloured so as to make the playground’s ship look close to the beach.
The council says the old water equipment was showing signs of “heavy wear and tear”, and that the sand was affecting play equipment as well as blocking drains.
Replacing the equipment, putting in the new surface and removing the sand added up to a cost of £160,000.
Cllr Dr Lynne Hack, executive member for the environment, said earlier this week:
“We’re so excited to see the play area reopen. The splash play equipment is ready for use well in time for the summer holidays and we can’t wait to see children enjoying the water.”
Friday’s opening was performed by the Mayor of Reigate & Banstead, Cllr Roger Newstead. As luck would have it, the day was hot and sunny, and the new water features quickly proved a popular way to cool down.
When it was announced in May, the proposed loss of the sand divided opinion, with many parents saying on Facebook that it was one of the park’s attractions, which could be enjoyed year-round, unlike a splash feature. However, others wanted the new water equipment – and an end to sand in clothes and shoes.
Peter Jones, Greenspaces project and play manager, said last week that the topic of removing the sand had featured in risk reports and meetings for over two years, following operational issues and feedback from visitors. He added:
“Following a number of occasions when we have sought the opinion of park users we had a split decision on keeping or removing the sand.
In light of that result, coupled with the maintenance and health and safety issues created by the presence of the sand, a decision was made by officers and elected members of the council to remove the sand and create a new water play facility.”
Last year renewing the sand and repairs cost around £25,000, and in August sand in the drains forced temporary closure of the toilets and play area.
But Mr Jones said new drains wouldn’t solve the problem as the existing ones are adequate, with the issue being sand blockages. He added that sand had also caused deterioration of the play equipment, and in some cases water play apparatus had become unusable and had been removed.
On the cost of the project, Mr Jones commented:
“This is the first time the park has been significantly refreshed since it was re-opened in 2007. The work was essential to keep the park in full working order given the issues caused by the sand.”
The council tries to upgrade two of the borough’s play areas each year. Work at Whitebushes is due to complete this year, and Ifold Road is to soon get a new multi-use games area. Projects are also being planned for 2018/19.