NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ — A couple of weeks prior to July Fourth, Pedro Showell began to notice something in Recreation Park that concerned him.
Children arrived ready to beat the heat in its water playground. Sometimes families even showed up in packed cars, excited to spend the day at the newly-opened park, which sits off Pine Street and near Georges Road, Showell said. But when the kids pressed the button to power on the water sprays, nothing happened.
It was broken.
“I've seen families being turned away,” Showell, a local pastor, told the New Brunswick City Council last week, at its July 19 meeting. “They're throwing water bottles and all kinds of things, and it looks ridiculous.”
Showell's idea? Order the parks department, or someone in city government, to fix the issue—and fast. And last Friday, two days after the pastor publicly raised his concerns, that's what happened.
The city announced that workers had capped off repairs on a ruptured pipe behind the playground drought, reopening the water-spray area for daily use. But the solution also came with a warning.
New Brunswick's city engineer, Richard Moody, said during the council meeting that the pipe broke because over-eager kids had repeatedly stomped on the activation button. That, Moody said, caused pressure to build up.
“That pressure in the line build-up blew out one of the connections that is in the spray pump,” he said.
The problem is, a 30-or-so-second delay exists between the time a child summons the water and when it actually begins to flow, according to the city. So, going forward, New Brunswick is asking residents—especially younger ones—to press the button just once while they wait to get cool.
Even so, Showell wasn't convinced that the kids were to blame. But, he said, he simply wanted to see them taken care of during the dog days of summer.
The repairs came later than Moody expected. When Showell discussed the matter, the city engineer said he believed that replacement parts had already been installed. He and a contractor had already visited the site and decided which components to buy.
Moody told the pastor and Councilperson Rebecca Escobar, who also raised concerns about the issue, that he would tackle the matter the following day.
“We know that the spray feature is a popular feature and one we're pleased to be able to offer to our residents,” city spokesperson Jennifer Bradshaw told TAPinto New Brunswick shortly before the water sprays came back online, “and we appreciate their patience as we handle the repair.”
The park opened less than one year ago. While Moody said the contractor is still responsible for providing maintenance, the ruptured pipe didn't fall under that agreement because it was caused by improper use.
This isn't the first time Showell went to bat for kids who play at Recreation Park.
Earlier this year, he urged the city to provide greater access to the site's public bathrooms. Bradshaw said the facilities were open only from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m., when the park employee signed out. Now, she said, the city “worked out an arrangement” to keep a staffer there—and the bathrooms open—until 7 p.m.