Bakersfield may have option to keep spray parks open

Bakersfield may have option to keep spray parks open »Play Video
FILE -- The spray park at Greystone Park in southwest Bakersfield, Calif., is seen in a photo from the Bakersfield Recreation & Parks Department.

UPDATE (4:12 p.m., Tuesday, July 29, 2014) -- The city of Bakersfield said it planned on shutting down operations at its spray parks on Aug. 1 to comply with emergency drought orders from the State Water Resources Control Board. The state regulations were slated to take effect in early August.

Tuesday, the state announced the new regulations will take effect immediately, so, as a result, Bakersfield said it will stop operating its spray parks Tuesday night.

According to a news release from city attorney Ginny Gennaro's office, "Although it was expected that such use would be discontinued effective August 1, 2014, it is now apparent that the law requires that all City of Bakersfield spray parks close tonight until at least April 25, 2015."

A previous story on the closing of the spray parks is below.

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BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) - A Bakersfield mom is on a mission to keep the city's spray parks open rather than having them shut down early, on Aug. 1.

When Shakira McCombs heard the city's water board had voted to close the spray parks, it was something that did not sit well with her.

"My reaction is you tell mom 'no,' and she'll try to figure out a way for her kids to cool off in the summer when there's not a lot to do in Bakersfield," said McCombs.

She started by calling her representative on the City Council, Harold Hanson. In turn, a city staffer directed her to contact the Bakersfield Parks and Recreation Department.

From there, she was told to contact the State Water Resources Board in Sacramento. Undeterred, McCombs finally made contact with Max Gomberg, senior environmental scientist with the state.

McCombs said she pressed her case and told Gomberg about Bakersfield's horrible heat in the summer months, and, to make it worse, kids are out of school.

As far as McCombs sees it, spray parks provide more than just recreation for children and families. 

"If there is an immediate health and safety need served by the spray park, then potentially it could stay open," said Gomberg in a telephone interview.

Gomberg said each entity must make a judgment call.

"We're relying on locals, local officials to be judicious about what constitutes an immediate health and safety need," said Gomberg.

On July 23, the city water board voted to close the spray parks early for water conservation. The nine city spray parks are free to the public and were slated to remain operational until September.

Water board members said their hands were tied and had to comply with new state regulations that prohibited the use of drinking water to be used for city spray parks and pools, as well as running a fountain or decorative water feature unless the water is recirculated.

City spray parks do not recirculate water.

The spray parks have remained immensely popular with children and families.

Gomberg said city officials made the right call in imposing the new restrictions.

"Bakersfield heeded the call for water conservation, we're in a very serious drought and everyone needs to do what they can," said Gomberg.

Bakersfield Councilman Russell Johnson, who is also a member of the water board, said he was not aware of the health and safety exemption. Johnson said he would ask city attorney Ginny Gennaro to look into the issue to determine if the city can make an exemption to keep the spray parks open.