The days are getting hotter, and usually around this time of year, eager swimmers would be awaiting the opening of Splash in the Boro. However, Bulloch County leaders are unsure about the park’s plans for the summer of 2020.
The COVID-19 pandemic that seems to affect every aspect of life has had its impact on the popular summer destination that opened in 2004, and the gates will remain closed a little while longer, said Justin Blanton, aquatics division manager for Statesboro-Bulloch County Parks and Recreation.
“No decision has been made yet” about when or whether to open, he said. “The original opening date would have been this Saturday, but that is not going to happen. We are still evaluating — it is possible that Splash won’t open (this summer). We are trying to do everything we can to open the water park this season.”
It is better to be safe and remain closed than risk someone’s health, said Wayne Gay, interim Statesboro-Bulloch County Parks and Recreation director.
“We are waiting on guidance from the Department of Health, Centers for Disease Control and the governor,” he said. “Splash in the Boro will not open until it is feasible to do so.”
Blanton said competition and lap pools may open soon, and there is still hope that the water park will open, at least for the latter part of the season.
“If we do open, we will have to find out the best way to keep staff and the public safe.”
Discussions between Bulloch County commissioners, Bulloch County Manager Tom Couch and others continue as they try to work out a way to open Splash, he said.
“We are staying very optimistic.”
But when and if the water park opens, “there will be limited access, social distancing, and it will be a different Splash” experience, Gay said.
“There won’t be the massive crowds.”
While the county would prefer to be able to open the park as scheduled, there are more important things to consider than recreation, he said.
“We will not open until we can ensure the safety of the staff and the public.”
Some have already purchased season passes, and they will either be refunded, have the pass rolled over to next season, or have a discount on next year’s pass, Blanton said.
Another issue the county faces is hiring employees for the water park, and those people must be trained and certified, Gay said.
Last year, Splash hired more than 225 workers to work at the water park for the summer season.
Plans are still up in the air, but he hopes the water park will open by the “middle of June, no later than July 4.”
If things go right, Splash might open by Independence Day, but the annual Firecracker Fest usually held at Mill Creek Regional Park is not going to happen until a few months later, he confirmed.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, social distancing and the governor’s mandates, the largely attended event, which includes bands, sports activities, games and a fireworks display, is postponed until Sept. 5.
The celebration will accentuate Labor Day instead and should be a welcome respite for those weary of the months of limited options during the summer caused by the coronavirus, he said.
When decisions are finalized regarding Splash in the Boro, that information will be published in the Statesboro Herald.
Herald reporter Holli Deal Saxon may be reached at (912) 489-9414.