Over Memorial Day Weekend the Melvin Johnson Jr. Splash Pad at the Airbase Park officially opened. After over a year of disappointments that kept the water park dry, on May 29 at 12 p.m., Jim Wendell opened the gate to excited children and their families.
Wendell is the Terrebonne Parish Parks and Recreation Administrator. He was also bursting with joy as he opened the gate to a space where children can run free amidst twirling sprinklers and surprising fountains.
“Cool off and have a good time! Keep it clean and have fun,” Wendell stated with glee.
Before the gate was unlocked to the public over the weekend, Wendell trimmed the park with finalizations and polished the new attraction with care and depth.
“We sterilized everything and used bleach. There are over fifty waterheads located throughout. So, we had to take all the waterheads off and flush the lines. It’s hooked to a freshwater system, so it’s not recirculated. We cleaned everything and installed the canopies for shade for the parents to be able to get a break from the heat. We just made sure everything was working,” Wendell said.
Wendell wants the community to bubble with memories and fondly reminisce. Thus, he has planted an idea in the ‘community garden’ that surrounds the splash pad.
“We’ve planted some bushes to add some greenery and get some butterflies and birds around. We want to put bushes all the way around. So, if people want to donate a bush, they can go off a list of 3-4 approved bushes. I’m going to till all the way around eventually, but we just needed to get the park open,” Wendell said.
Locals can buy a bush ranging from $20 to $25 (including soil and mulch) and plant their memorabilia along the splash park. A customized card by donators may be placed by the bush in honor of loved ones, celebrations, etc.
“Hopefully, we’ll have a whole memory row going around or a celebration row, so you can come out here and reminisce on special occasions, loved ones, and watch kids have fun. It gives the option for people to give back and be a part of the community,” He added.
Parish President Gordon Dove, Councilman Dirk Guidry, Councilman John Navy, and Wendall gave back to the community by planning, developing, and maintaining the splash park for families to enjoy throughout the years.
“This gives them something to do and not be stuck in the house. They can come and have fun and its closed in. It’s also good if someone wants to have a Birthday party with a bunch of kids. They can come play and everybody watch, and they can be safe,” Ruby Leonard, Grandma of Sky-Logan, stated.
The Melvin Johnson Jr. Splash Park is a haven for children and their loved ones that is located close to home.
“It’s awesome…something on this side of town is great! The kids have been locked up for so long and this is an out for them,” Kim Frost said.
Sophia, Kim’s granddaughter, enjoyed her freedom while she became Amelia Earhart and flew a plane that sprayed water.
“It gives us something to do on this side of town, usually there’s nothing to do over here and you have to go through to the tunnel on the other side and do something. It gives the kids something to do at the park and enjoy exclusively for them,” Darien Peto said.
Darien, and his wife Victoria gazed upon their children from under a shaded umbrella. As the parents watched with cheer, their children Aubreella and Riley, laughed throughout the fantasy water land.
The highlight of the splash park was the big yellow bucket that dumped 60 gallons of water on anticipating children below. Boys and girls could be heard counting the seconds till the bucket tipped. Then, screams of amusement misted throughout the Summer air.
As the bucket splashed on some children, others imagined they were mermaids swimming throughout the ocean while others turned into fish.
While little ones frolicked into another world, parents, grandmas, and others watched in unison upon free-spirited innocence.
“I hope this splash park brings a sense of togetherness. I know the last couple of years we’ve had a lot of things with police activity, racial divide, and political divide. This is a way for people to come out and put all that aside and come out here and watch kids have fun, come together as a community, and hopefully have a sense of pride. We put out nice things and we have trash receptacles and everything, so if people take pride and keep it clean it could be something that we expand on in the future,” Wendell ended.
The Melvin Johnson Jr. Splash Park is located at the Airbase Park on the Eastside of Houma.
Splash Park Hours:
Open daily from 1 p.m. to 7 p.m.
Saturdays and Sundays from 1 p.m. to 7 p.m.
To find out more information on planting a bush, sponsoring a bed, adopt a park, call Jim Wendell at 985-873-6584.
See pictures of the grand opening of the Melvin Johnson Jr. Splash Park below: