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Splash Park Opening 2

Kids enjoy the newly opened Fred Cook Memorial Splash Park on Wednesday in Murphysboro.

MURPHYSBORO — The sun was setting Wednesday, but the heat of the day still stood stagnant — that is, until the water came on.

The shouts and cries from over a dozen kids of all ages were joined by the splash and patter of water hitting the newly christened Fred Cook Memorial Splash Park in Longfellow Park in Murphysboro.

The pad has been in the works for years. The project was started about five years ago by the Friends of Murphysboro, and, according to civic leaders, the Murphysboro Splash Pad has been the culmination of incredible efforts from volunteer organizations.

Friends volunteer Brad Fager and Murphysboro Mayor Will Stephens — who stood watching the hoopla, soaked from head-to-toe from his run through the fountains — said it took a lot of volunteer time and effort to make the pad a reality.

"We have incredible volunteer organizations here,” Stephens said. Saying that, Stephens said, he felt like a broken record. But, at least he likes the song.

In a letter sent to The Southern, Fager said part of what has kept him volunteering with the Friends of Murphysboro has been the people he’s worked with over the last 12 years.

“My hope is that every one of those volunteers read about the splash park and feels a part of the accomplishment and the gift that is going back to Murphysboro,” he wrote.

The total donation from the Friends of Murphysboro was about $80,000 — Stephens said he is amazed to see how much the community was willing to give for the project. The city is donating the water, he said, but the rest was all donated in some form or another.

“Asaturian Eaton provided all the civil engineering cost for the splash park. A&W Plumbing gave big discounts on their cost for installation, which was over a $3,000 donation,” Fager wrote.

“Fager-McGee Construction coordinated the construction of the splash pad donating all their services. The Murphysboro Park district donated materials and labor for a maintenance shed. The park district also took on maintenance cost of the splash park for the long run.”

Fager said in his letter that without the donation of the water fees from the city, the project likely would have been a nonstarter.

Before the celebration could begin Wednesday, Jatavion Williams, a student from Carruthers Elementary School, read a letter he wrote as part of a class project about why he believes parks are important. He wrote that it would give families a place to go and will save them gas by not having to travel out of town to have fun.

Splash Park Opening 1

Kids enjoy the newly opened Fred Cook Memorial Splash Park on Wednesday in Murphysboro.

He said parks also could generally attract new residents to move to the city, as well as provide a venue for events for neighborhood kids and their families.

After Williams finished his essay, there was a ribbon-cutting ceremony, complete with comically oversized scissors and a giant red bow. Then, Williams went to turn on the switch — a blue touch screen reading “Let’s play.”

Kim Edwards lives a block away and was watching with a smile as her two kids laughed and ran in the water. She and her family live about a block away and said they make regular use of Longfellow Park, but now they have more reasons to come, especially in the hot weather.

“It adds excitement for our kids and (is) something quick and easy,” she said.

Her daughter, Maddie Edwards, ran up to tell her mom, “I’m going to go play some more,” before darting back toward the cascade of water coming from the giant sprinkler system.

Raymond Barney watched his nephew, Williams, read his letter and hit the on-switch at the splash park. He also lives close by, and said he, too, thinks this adds a lot to the neighborhood.

“It’s always hot,” Barney said of summers in Murphysboro. This not only gives families a reason to get out of the house — Williams noted that it keeps kids away from screens, at least for a little while — but also can save money. Barney said this way, neighbors won’t have to hook up a sprinkler in their own yards, spiking their water bills.

Fager said in his letter that the splash pad has been the biggest venture the Friends of Murphysboro has completed. However, the biggest is yet to come. He wrote that it is the goal of the not-for-profit to create a $250,000 legacy fund that will be self-renewing and will provide high-end entertainment for the Riverside Park band shell.

“The incredible venue available will be put to use forever with the endowment paying for musical talent indefinitely,” he wrote.

Fager said he hopes the work being done will be enough to bring the next, new volunteer to find their place in the community and create “something magnificent.”

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isaac.smith@thesouthern.com

618-351-5823

On Twitter: @ismithreports

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Isaac Smith is a reporter covering Jackson County.

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