- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 7, 2004

By all means, play in the fountain. That is the message visitors get when they arrive at South Germantown Recreational Park’s Splash Playground. A visit here is a nice break from the typical neighborhood pool. It brings up what the “greatest generation” might call the good, old days, when a hot summer day meant opening up a fire hydrant to splash and cool off.

At South Germantown Recreational Park, the fire hydrant concept — along with its offspring, the backyard sprinkler — has been executed in 21st-century style. The park, operated by the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, is a fenced-in, concrete-floored circular area that can hold a couple hundred people. The highlight of the splash playground is its 280-jet water maze in the center. The maze is choreographed by a computer, so those playing in the middle never know whether the jets will spray up 18 inches or 6 feet.

“It’s great here,” says Debbie Jacobs of Potomac, who brought her daughter and niece, ages 6 and 5, respectively, for a recent visit. “It’s different from the same old pool.”

A group of 8-year-old boys put it more succinctly. “This place is awesome,” they said on their way to duck through the waterfall and take cover in a man-made cave.

On the perimeter of the water area is a variety of other squirters and chances for water fun.

Mushroom umbrellas spray water while other sprays jet up diagonally from the ground. There is a pole with cone-shaped buckets mounted 20 feet high. The buckets fill up and randomly dump on the people below. Trying to figure out which color bucket will fall over next is part of the fun. Two faux mountains spray cooling fog from the rocks.

There is also a frog, turtle and whale that squirt water at a preschool-friendly height. In fact, the park is excellent for that age because it is safe for non-swimmers. The water is no more than an inch or so deep in any one spot. Meanwhile, the park’s circular design, safety fence and relatively small size means parents really can’t lose sight of their children as they play.

The park is also a good spot for special needs children. Recently, a group of special education students and teachers from Rachel Carson Elementary School in Gaithersburg enjoyed a morning in the fountains.

Many of the children, who have multiple disabilities, use wheelchairs. They were still able to enjoy the spray of the water, though.

“It is one level here, which is good,” says special education teacher Lore Neubeiser. “We put waterproof sheeting on the chairs and take them right through. They also have a waterproof wheelchair that you can borrow here.”

The splash playground features changing rooms, restrooms, a few vending machines, benches and shaded picnic tables on its grounds. Children 10 and younger must be accompanied by an adult. Visitors can go through the playground barefoot, but waterproof sandals or pool shoes will help cut down on scraped toes.

When it is time to leave the splash playground, there is still plenty to do at South Germantown Recreational Park.

The Central Park area, where the splash playground is located, also features two 18-hole miniature golf courses, an archery range, a pond with a model boat launch, and hiking and biking trails. A 66,000-square foot indoor swim facility is under construction.

There is also a large, restored dairy barn that contains the King Dairy Mooseum. Families can request tours of the facility to learn about Montgomery County’s dairy heritage.

In the South Park area, there are ball fields, tennis and basketball courts, picnic areas and the 7-acre Adventure Playground, a traditional — and giant — playground.

The Maryland SoccerPlex, a huge indoor and outdoor venue for team sports competition, is also in the park.

WHEN YOU GO:

LOCATION: Splash Playground is in South Germantown Recreational Park, at 18056 Central Park Circle in Boyds.

Directions: From Interstate 270, take Exit 15B toward Germantown. Stay on Maryland Route 118 for three miles, passing Clopper Road. Turn right at Richter Farm Road and follow until the stop sign at Schaeffer Road. Turn left on Schaeffer Road and follow signs.

Parking: Free parking lot on site.

Admission: $3.50 per person; $31.50 for booklet of 10 passes. Miniature golf is $5 per round, $4 for ages 10 and younger. A combination pass book for five rounds of golf and five Splash Playground admissions is $38.

Hours: Open daily 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. through Sept. 6 and 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays Sept. 11 to 26. The park closes when lightning and thunder are present.

Note: There are lockers, changing rooms, restrooms and picnic tables at the playground. There is no concession stand, but a few vending machines sell drinks and frozen candy. Visitors can bring their own coolers. Waterproof sandals or pool shoes are recommended.

More information: 301/601-3580 or www.mc-mncppc.org.

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