The groundwork is being laid for a splash pad, pickleball courts and expanded dog park at Eisenhower Park, public improvements Mayor Ben Blake touted during his annual state of the city address last summer.

Drainage had been an issue at the dog park, so animal control officials have been helping with plans for a new and better one, one that includes separate space for smaller dogs, better drainage, and an area that can be rotated in use so that the ground and grass can “rest” for a season.

The dog park is located on the north side of the Wepawaug River as it runs through the park.

The pickleball courts and splash pad will be located closer to the North Street side of Eisenhower, behind Bodie’s Place Playground and the tennis courts. The area will also include additional parking.

Milford’s Public Works Department has started leveling the area for the new courts and splashpad.

Splash pads or spray pools are very popular, especially at city parks. They are open areas with play equipment that sprays or squirts water.

“Typically there are ground nozzles that spray water upwards out of the splash pad's raindeck,” according to Wikipedia. “There may also be other water features such as a rainbow (semicircular pipe shower), or mushroom- or tree-shaped showers. Some splash pads feature movable nozzles similar to those found on fire trucks to allow users to spray others. The showers and ground nozzles are often controlled by a hand activated-motion sensor, to run for a limited time.”
An online source notes that these are popular because they offer the cooling benefits of a swimming pool in the summer, but there is no need for lifeguards because there is little risk of drowning.

During a February Public Works meeting, Public Works Director Chris Saley said the park would be open noon to 5 or 6 p.m. with possible longer hours during hot weather, according to meeting minutes. Answering questions from Alderman Janet Golden, he said the water would be fresh, and not chlorinated. He said posting a guard at the park is still in the talking phase.

Responding to questions from Alderman Dan German, Saley said the park would use 226 gallons of water per minute at a cost of $250-$300 per day, and it is anticipated to cost between $30,000 and $35,000 per year for water.

Park and Recreation Commission Chairman Dan Worroll said the significant water use is one of the downsides of a splash pad, and he noted that they need to be maintained properly.

“But I think it will be good,” he said.

He has little doubt that the pickleball courts will be a hit.

Pickleball has been growing in popularity over at least the past decade, and Milford residents have been playing the game on the city tennis courts in recent years. According to the recreation department’s website, it is a racquet sport which combines elements of badminton, tennis and table tennis.
“The sport is played on a court with the same dimensions as a doubles badminton court. The net is similar to tennis net, but is mounted two inches lower. The game is played with a hard paddle and a polymer smaller version of a Wiffle ball,” according to an online source.

There will be eight pickleball courts at Eisenhower, Worroll said, pointing out that they are smaller than tennis courts.

The game has reportedly gained popularity with all age groups because it is easy to play and allows young and old of various skill levels to play together. Worroll said he has attended social events at Milford Indoor Tennis where pickleball was played, “and the response has been great,” he said.

Work is still relatively preliminary: Bids for construction of the pickleball courts aren’t scheduled to be opened until April 4. Therefore, the mayor could not yet pinpoint the total cost, but he said a $1 million state grant is expected to cover all three projects at the park.

Blake said he hopes the work will be done by early summer.

One regular park user questioned the new amenities, saying that “with the disrepair of much of the park, lack of maintenance and no security, not to mention the lack of funds to dredge and fix the breached dam, both desperately needed,” he believes the money could have been better allocated.

But Worroll said that recreation is important in Milford, and residents want places to play and exercise.

“Health and wellness and recreation are big in Milford,” Worroll said, adding that people have been asking for these facilities for a long time.