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New Waterfront Park is nice but …

Our family spent a couple of very pleasant hours on Mother’s Day afternoon at the new San Diego Waterfront Park. To us, this 12-acre, $50 million facility has a subtle eloquence.

The primary feature is water. There are gardens of drought-tolerant plants, the huge expanses of lawn are capable of hosting upward of 6,000 relaxing people, and the 80,000 gallons of water in two massive reflecting pools run through a filtering process each night.

There are kids’ play areas that include playground features to keep youngsters entertained. Very nice.

There is underground parking. It was full when we arrived. Additional parking for county employees is under construction.

While we were there, fountains that spout water into the shallow pools were constantly active. So was the backsplash caused by youngsters. Kids very quickly discovered that by sitting directly in front of the shooting water they could direct water and get a back massage at the same time.

One of the first problems discovered at the park was caused by that redirected water. . When water splashes onto the decomposed granite in the area, a bit of a runny mudlike substance is created that gave grief to the pumps.

The fix is already being discussed. In the meantime, the water has been shut off occasionally and the filters have been cleaned. The last report I’ve seen is that the fountains will be run for short periods during the day.

When the pools have water in them, the invitation to run and splash is irresistible so it is not just the backsplashing fountains that will cause problems. We watched our youngest grandson trot in a circle through the three or four inches of water for something close to an hour. That’s more stamina than seems reasonable, but was typical of many of the children playing in the shallow pools.

The place was relatively clear of trash. We didn’t see monitors picking up litter and putting it in the many trash receptacles. Apparently not much trash was being left by the people at the park that day.

The concession stand was closed, which may have contributed to the minimal amount of paper and cups. That may change when the snack stand is open for business. Residents in the area have close trolley access so they can get to the park for with little cost and effort. There is no charge to enter or use the park, also a positive. In short, it is an attractive new place. “Better than a parking lot,” was the comment by at least one observer.

I had only one nagging thought. For the past several years, all of the water distribution authorities have been urging residents to conserve. We are reminded that one small drip can result in the loss of hundreds of gallons of water over time.

Californians have been asked to do as the horticulture experts did at the park: use plants that require little water. We do, after all, live in a near-desert area.

Gov. Jerry Brown declared a drought this year. The rains hardly came, the snowpack was not what is needed to keep up with the water use in the state and to top it off, the fire season is already on us, demanding the use of some of that precious water. At least one observer has publically suggested using saltwater to help fight the blazes. While that doesn’t seem practical, given the incompatibility of saltwater and plant regeneration, it points to the problem.

Finally, the electronic traffic-notification systems have reminded us for the past couple of weeks that we are in a drought. Residents are asked to save one small drip at a time. And yet, we’ve just added several small drips to the system.

Make no mistake. The waterfront park is an attractive place to relax and play. However, 80,000 gallons of water would last the average individual about 1,000 days. It makes one wonder, even with the limited amount involved, if this is a logical use of our precious water. The evaporation alone is more than can be saved by repairing a few dripping faucets.

Hawkins is retired after 35 years as a construction industry association manager. He was a broadcast reporter and news anchor in Denver. As a Navy officer, he saw action in Vietnam in the River Assault Squadrons and is the recipient of a Silver Star and Purple Heart.

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1 UserComments
amy roth 10:18am June 4, 2014

The parks people say all that water is constantly recycled; none is not wasted. I guess it's much like rice farming, which seems to be so water-intensive but actually uses the least water of any form of agriculture (or so I've been told by a water expert)