The splashJAM is a pilot prototype to test how play and water can bring neighbors and families out, from all over the city, and create a new hub for families.
At the corner of Short Street and Eastern Avenue, Thoroughbred Park operates as a ceremonial gateway to the city. Families in Lexington frequent the park to play in the water, despite it not being permitted. The local community is craving a place that is more playful and active. Across the street sits Northeastern Park with excellent potential to pilot engaging, family focused activities and become a connector for neighborhoods and people.
In 2015 Gehl conducted a Public Space Public Life Survey in Lexington, Kentucky, and developed an action plan with recommendations for the city.
In this sociable city, tuned for college students and young professionals — with great events, an elite basketball team, and a burgeoning restaurant and bar scene — what we heard and observed was a clear need for family-friendly invitations in the city.
In particular: there was a latent demand for play and water. The splashJAM — a temporary splash pad in the East End, at the nexus of several neighborhoods, and the gateway to the city — aims to fill this demand, while testing how water-play can bring families together in the public realm, from all parts of the city.
Kids and families are out in Thoroughbred Park playing in the fountains, despite it not being permitted.
Inspiration for a lighter splash park is the touring interactive art piece “Hidden Rooms” by Jeppe Hein
Across from the courthouses, we see further examples of Lexington’s desire for playing in water.
Come out and play! You can check out the action during the summer of 2016- splashJAM kicks off in Northeastern park mid-July.
SplashJam in Action
Last weekend the project team was on-site, for the first time during the intervention, to observe and measure public life at SplashJam. It will take some time to analyze the surveys and observation data, but there is much to share about our hot Saturday in Northeastern Park.
The visits to SplashJam are to record the activity present in the space with the aim to understand the impact of the pilot project. From Gehl’s 2015 Public Space Public Life Surveys in Lexington, we found a need for more play spaces. We also observed that water already attracts kids and families in Lexington: the fountain at nearby Thoroughbred park is regularly used for swimming and splashing despite this not being its intention. SplashJam is an experiment to invite more children and their families to spend time in local public space.
Initial observations and informal conversations with visitors tell us that people are both walking and driving to SplashJam. Especially during earlier periods of the day, the park is a destination for families from neighborhoods across the city. We are interested to learn more from our surveys about the core visitor group. Where do they live? How often do they come to the park? Who are they? At a quick glance, we believe the five or so blocks surrounding the park on all sides make up the core group. There was a constant stream of visitors from this zone at SplashJam all day. Later in the day, a group of women that accompanied children to the park sat with a cooler of food and drinks and watched the children play for over an hour.
We will continue to do more surveying and hope to learn if SplashJam is able to give the people of the surrounding neighborhoods a reason to come together. Northeastern park meets the edge of several neighborhoods that have diverse socio-economic backgrounds. We want children and parents from every neighborhood and background to feel that SplashJam is their space to play in.
An initial finding we are excited about speaks to this goal:
83% of survey responders had never or had rarely been (once per year) to Northeastern park before the SplashJam.
On the day of surveying, 89% of responders have now been/plan to go weekly (or more).
This suggests that SplashJam is reaching a new audience and giving people a reason to visit again and interact with their neighbors. On the hot summer days in Lexington, Kentucky, SplashJam is a great place to cool-off, watch your kids play, and meet your neighbor.
A special thank you to the volunteers that contributed to surveying!