DECATUR, Ill. (WAND) - Making a splash at Decatur's newest water park will come with changes for patrons after the park re-opens following a weekend closure.
The Decatur Park District opted to close the recently open facility Friday night after a series of fights within the last week.
“Unfortunately, it is empty,” President of the Decatur Park District, Stacey Young, said Saturday afternoon. “We hate that we had to close these two days. We certainly want to be a full functioning facility at all times.”
In just over a week, the Park District said police responded to a “verbal altercation” as a proactive measure, a physical fight on June 14 and another fight involving teen girls on June 18th which resulted in the park shutting down for the weekend.
“Safety is paramount, so we can not enjoy the facility, people cannot enjoy the experience [when fights happen],” Young said. “We have little kids that are here, we have families that are here, we have individuals that are here, and we want them to be safe.”
When the facility re-opens on Monday, Young said there will be policy changes implemented to make sure further incidents do not occur. Among them, the capacity limit of 999 persons is being reduced by 25% or about 250 people.
The age limit for admission to the park without adult supervision is being raised from 12-years-old to 16-years-old as well. Young said some of the recent incidents have involved youth. The incident on June 18th involved two groups of young females, according to the Park District.
“We have situations where young people are fighting, brawling, arguing, they are being disrespectful to our staff,” she said. “We have to step back and say we have to put some rules in place to let them know we have zero tolerance for that behavior. We will not continue to accept that and [let them] stay in our facility. Parental control is needed. One of the major issues is that kids are being dropped off with no parent attached and unfortunately, that has caused some issues."
According to Young, Splash Cove attendees will also now have to get a Splash Cove ID. A park goer will have their picture taken by staff and it will be stored in the system.
The ID must be presented each time a person visits the park. Park District staff hope using the ID’s will help them identify those who cause problems.
“We do not appreciate having to have our whole community, or those that want to enjoy this park go through this whole experience because of a few people who are misbehaving,” Young said.
Splash Cove leadership will also look at security options over the coming weeks.
Park Police are already at the park. Young said lifeguard training may eventually include de-escalation techniques and guest behavior training to keep from having to “lock down” the water park.
“We are going to have our staff, our managerial, our leadership staff out here quite often. We will have our Park Police who will come through and monitor,” Young said. “We certainly don’t want it to be a facility where you walk up and [are] intimidated, thinking it is full of mischief because of al the police that our outside.”
Young could not say how long the new procedures would be in effect but stressed further incidents could result in additional changes to procedures and asked the public to step up to keep Splash Cove safe and inviting.
“What we’re hoping to do is to get the word out to the public,” Young said. “We want to implore them to be the eyes and be the ears and to help us to monitor these conditions. If you see something, say something. Let us know if you see something that is reveling up. We are really, really hoping that after this closure, and re-opening and the changes that we are making, that the public will help us monitor this so we can eliminate any issues before they even begin.”
Splash Cove will re-open with normal hours and events on Monday, June 21. The new polices and procedures will take effect then.
Splash Cove opened for the first time Memorial Day weekend after pushing off a grand opening in 2020 because of COVID-19.