Modesto to turn splash fountains back on

Jacob Prochnow tries to stop the flow of the water fountain at James Marshall Park in 2011.
Jacob Prochnow tries to stop the flow of the water fountain at James Marshall Park in 2011. Modesto Bee file

Kids will have another way to keep their cool starting Friday when Modesto turns back on some of its splash fountains, which it turned off two summers ago because of the drought.

The City Council voted 6-1 on Tuesday to grant an exemption for the splash fountains from the city’s drought rules. The fountains could reopen as soon as Friday afternoon.

Councilwoman Kristi Ah You cast the “no” vote. In an interview, Ah You said she is concerned about the drought and that there are other options for kids, such as public swimming pools.

The city will reopen the fountains at seven city parks: Ustach, Freedom, Coffee-Claratina, Marshal, Sylvan, George Rogers and Lions Junction at the Virginia Corridor. The fountains will remain off at Sanders, Creekwood and Graceada parks because of maintenance concerns and because these parks are near other facilities with water play features.

The council’s decision to grant the exemption came after resident Emerson Drake questioned the wisdom of doing this while California is still in a drought and the city is requiring residents to conserve water.

He also said turning the splash fountains on means the homeless will use them as showers because the fountains are the only places they can get clean while keeping an eye on their belongings.

Parks, Recreation and Neighborhoods acting Manager Ashley Weaver has said the city is balancing the need to provide children with recreation over the summer while using water responsibly.

For instance, a city report says the fountains would be operated on reduced hours, from 2 to 6 p.m. This and other modifications will result in the fountains using about a fifth of the amount of water – or about 720,000 gallons – that they did in previous years.

Utilities Director Larry Parlin told council members that 720,000 gallons is about how much water roughly four households would use in about a year. The city report states it will cost $1,350 for the water and staff time to turn the fountains on.

Kevin Valine: 209-578-2316