Fountain’s restricted hours are all wet, frustrated kids say
As the temperatures push toward triple digits, an on-again, off-again interactive water fountain on Main Street has stymied parents and small children who arrive for some cooling-down fun.
In part because the water feature on the corner of Fifth Street has become so beloved, city officials and Grand Junction’s Downtown Development Authority have decided to cut back on its hours of operation.
The water jets will be on intermittently weekdays and will be on consistently after business hours from 5 to 10 p.m. It will run all day from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. on weekends.
“I think it should be kept on all day,” 8-year-old Ryleigh Romero sulked on Friday, waiting on a bench with her family while licking a gelato purchased across the street.
Ryleigh’s mom, Jessica Romero, said they usually get ice cream after her children play in the fountain, but they decided to get a treat beforehand, noticing that the jets were on and thinking they had time to spare. By the time they got to the fountain, the ground was dry.
“It is frustrating not knowing,” she said of the fountain’s operation schedule. “Some people don’t have all day and can’t wait and wait.”
As the Romero family waited, other families also arrived looking perplexed at the dry fountain.
City officials have decided to cut back on weekday fountain times for several reasons, said Mike Vendegna, Grand Junction’s parks superintendent.
Water quality has suffered at the fountain because the feature has become such a popular attraction and turning off the water for a time allows city workers to check levels of contaminants, he said. Also, a crush of visitors spilling out onto the sidewalk during business hours has drawn the ire of several nearby business owners. Shutting down the fountains, even for a while each day, also helps conserve water, Vendegna said.
“We’re looking for a balance, a happy medium,” he said. “The concept is really, really good — we’re just evaluating if that’s the proper location.”
Vendegna said the fountain was never intended to be used as the high-traffic splash pad it has become.
It was intended for more occasional use, for example folks making a couple passes through the fountains, not dozens of people spending the day playing in the water.
Its treated water system is not drawing from a large reserve, like, for example, the Lincoln Park pool’s splash pad. Chlorine and chemicals in the treated water evaporate quickly in the downtown fountain and city maintenance crews are working to keep the water quality safe, he said.
The city added a list of rules and guidelines at the fountain last year in an effort to keep the feature functioning for all.
One of the rules is that children who are not yet potty-trained should be outfitted in a swim diaper, an effort to keep E. coli bacteria levels down.
“Please help us so we can keep the feature,” Vendegna said. “We want to keep it. We really, really do.”