Change is good, even when it costs a bit more

I’m sure that you, like me, occasionally stop and reflect upon all the changes that have occurred in our region over the years.

Recently, Diane was working on a story about genealogy and, as she was sharing with me how interesting the interview had gone, she also said, “You know where the house was? … It was the old Cripps farm property.”

If you’re new to the community, then chances are you probably wouldn’t remember the farm, but for those of us whose roots go a little deeper, all will remember the Cripps farm as the “place to be” every autumn for its pumpkin patch.

These times of contemplation and reflection are good for the soul — at least they are for me. I need that introspection to ensure I’m not too set in my ways and to challenge my brain to bring back from its depth old memories that I never want to lose.

I think we all do it.

This week, I drove by the Rotary Splash Pad at Starlite Beach one afternoon and it was empty, no water was running and, as evidenced by the dry concrete, no youngsters had been by using it that day. It didn’t take long to dawn on me that, since school was back in session across the region, that would only make sense that use of the equipment in the early afternoon would be minimal at best, since most kids should be in class.

As I was thinking about that, I also thought how wonderful that addition has been for our community this summer. It was the perfect summer to launch such a park and every time I drove by, there always were youngsters having fun and running around — enjoying the many features of the water wonderland.

The Rotary Splash Pad has changed the face of Starlite considerably, and the change has been a great addition to our community. Not only does it add to the quality of life for city residents, it also is a wonderful magnet to bring in visitors and guests from outside the city.

And that fact has not been lost on area tourism, chamber and city officials.

While water expenses at the park have exceeded initial budget estimations, it doesn’t seem to be a huge concern to city officials. First, it was hard to estimate expenses for something that was brand new. In my estimation, I’m sure those working on the estimates did their very best to reflect the best numbers they could with the information on hand, but I’m also sure they were probably more “guesstimates” than estimates.

City officials estimated monthly expenses at $12,000. July’s water bill to the city was around $16,400, while August’s came in at $15,900. Longer hours of operation during the initial grand opening and a very warm summer certainly contributed to the larger numbers.

Even still, City Manager Greg Sundin, speaking to True North radio this week, didn’t seem overly troubled by the numbers.

“The overall effect of the splash pad on the community has been very positive,” Sundin told the radio station. “It’s a great asset. Is there a cost? Yes. But the overall benefit to the community, especially youth, outweighs the cost.”

I appreciate such a progressive perspective about the park, and the water being used there. It is exactly the kind of thinking I want to see from our elected officials, and Sundin said everything I wanted to hear about this unique new addition.

As the days grow shorter and the air outside begins to cool, the days of the pad’s operation are nearing an end for this season. The splash pad will probably be closed at the end of September.

Then we all will have to wait until May of next year to experience it again, but the anticipation will only add excitement to the eventual spring opening.

As I think about change, the Rotary Splash Pad is the perfect example of a project that wonderfully has improved the quality of life for all of us.

Bill Speer can be reached at bspeer@thealpenanews.com or 989-354-3111, ext. 331. Follow Bill on Twitter @billspeer13.