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SPIGOLON: Good idea coming to life in west Newton
Splash pad 5
Water covers young users of the new splash pad during a demonstration Thursday, May 20. - photo by Tom Spigolon

Newton County’s newest public recreational feature is designed to serve the youngest among us and was the brainchild of a motivated teen who wanted to improve the quality of life in his community.

It is an example of what happens when a good idea meets a way to bring it to life.

The splash pad covers about half an acre and is designed to get its users wet without dunking their heads under water.

It’s designed for youngsters and is going to be popular, I predict — especially since admission will be free.

In fact, I hope county recreation department officials assigned to supervise the facility will enforce a rule of a maximum age limit so older kids won’t be muscling younger users out of the way to cool off during the upcoming Georgia summer heat.

Recreation money from proceeds of the 2017 Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax was combined with $2,000 raised by Harrison Kirkham. The project cost an estimated total of $260,000. 

The Splash Pad should have opened in 2020 but a number of factors, including COVID, delayed it, said county recreation director Dwayne Mask.

Kirkham is a former Eastside High School student and member of Boy Scout Troop 93 when he originated the design for the splash pad in 2016 as a public service project required to earn his Eagle Scout rank.

Multiple speakers at a ribbon-cutting ceremony and demonstration last week recounted how Kirkham did most of the talking as his parents listened during presentations to Chairman Marcello Banes and recreation department officials.

Harrison had a plan for a water park that could be used by all young people, regardless of any physical disabilities, rather than a swimming pool to avoid the constant danger of drowning for very young children. 

The future engineering student, who is nearing the end of a two-year mission trip for his church, then went about the task of designing it and raising funds.

“He made our job very easy,” said Lanier Sims, the former District 2 county commissioner.

Harrison’s mother, Amanda Kirkham, told the crowd of county and state officials and community members about having to sometimes “poke and prod” her son to “make sure he stayed on the timeline” of the project amid his other responsibilities.

She said afterward that county officials used her son’s design. Harrison also did a small portion of the fundraising for bricks that contained donor names. He and his troop members and volunteers built benches to be placed at the park. 

Several teachers at Eastside High School and the Newton County Theme School also contributed money, Mrs. Kirkham said.

She said he recorded his work on social media, including a Facebook page called Newton County Splash Park where his past posts recorded his progress. 

Harrison was able to meet the leadership requirements for the Eagle rank by “leading up” the Board of Commissioners members with project ideas, plans, finding vendors and other tasks, she said. 

“He also led his peers and volunteers in fundraising efforts and the construction of the benches, including securing the materials to the delivery ...,” Mrs. Kirkham said.

Harrison, by phone from Seattle, Washington, credited his mom with playing a key part in making it all happen during its more than four years of evolution.

A good idea has come to life, and the community is about to benefit.

Tom Spigolon is news editor of The Covington News. He may be reached at tspigolon@covnews.com.