In the age of technology, where often the only outdoor activity children get is walking from the house to the car, there is still one frontier guaranteed to draw them outside and capture their attention for awhile: swimming in summer.

Note: An in-depth look at how the Shawnee Splash Water Parks are encouraging playful, family-friendly exercise in an age where inactivity reigns.

In the age of technology, where often the only outdoor activity children get is walking from the house to the car, there is still one frontier guaranteed to draw them outside and capture their attention for awhile: swimming in summer.

With a full inaugural season tucked safely under its belt, Shawnee Splash, at Woodland Veterans Park at 100 E. Highland, is ready to embrace all who are willing; its summer season is in full swing.

Not only are the water parks a great option for staying cool, they promote physical activity in a way that doesn't seem like exercise.

“What a great way for all of us to get healthy,” Avedis Foundation President Michelle Briggs said.

According to the Oklahoma State Department of Health's State of the County's Report for Pottawatomie County, physical inactivity was reported to be a leading contributor to almost one in 10 adult deaths in the U.S.

While 30.4 percent of all Oklahoma adults from 2005-2010 were not engaging in any physical activity, the rate was higher in Pottawatomie County, at 31.1 percent.

The report states that adults who engage each week in 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous intensity aerobic activity –– in bouts of at least 10 minutes –– experience improved health and fitness and reduced risk of several chronic diseases.

Enter the health benefits of water play.

“Any type of physical activity is good for you, but water sports are especially easy on your joints,” Briggs said. “Playing in the water is a great way to have fun and gets lots of exercise while you're doing it.”

Though many cringe at the thought of sunburn, with careful protection the sun also can be beneficial.

“With proper use of sunscreen, you can soak up a little vitamin D,” she said.

“The Avedis Foundation is always happy to support activities such as swimming and playing in the water,” she said.

Youth who are regularly active have a better chance of having a healthy adulthood. Children and adolescents should get at least 60 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity most days of the week –– preferably every day –– and three of those days should include vigorous intensity aerobic activity, the report states.

Statewide, 56.6 percent of high school students were physically active most days of the week in 2013.

This is the beginning of Splash's second year in operation, but it took some time to materialize. Plans for the water parks were in the works for awhile.

Funding

The funding goal for the $4.2 million pool project was met in 2014. City contribution totaled $3 million. The pool committee collected the remaining, approximate $1.2 million with the help of an Avedis Foundation challenge grant, which matched half of the remaining goal.

The three largest Avedis challenge donors were Sarkeys Foundation, in the form of a $150,000 grant, Citizen Potawatomi Nation, in the amount of $100,000, and Pottawatomie County, in the amount of $50,000. At that time, John Ayers, pool committee chairman, reported the goal was reached with the aid of 148 donors.

Aquatics Manager Kerri Foster said about 200 people attended last year's inaugural celebration, and packed the venue all summer long.

Foster said the grand opening highlight was having Olympic gold-medalist Josh Davis set the initial Shawnee Splash record for fastest freestyle. Davis was quick to welcome community competition.

“Now it’s ready to be broken,” he said, “so the challenge is out there for somebody from Shawnee to break it.”

Davis detailed his reason for participating.

“As an Olympic swimming ambassador, whenever there’s a new pool built, it has ripple effects through the whole community, for generations,” he said, noting youth have the opportunity to become water safe, make memories, join a swim team and obtain a college scholarship. “And, just maybe, they can go to the Olympic games and win the gold medal for our country, because it was a pool just like this that changed my life and opened up my eyes to how much fun I could have and what I could potentially be.”

Dollar Days

Thanks to Avedis offsetting the cost, the water park is able to offer some dollar days. Though one date has already passed –– June 1 –– admission will be $1 June 15 and July 13, according to the Shawnee Splash Facebook page.

More about Splash

City Director of Operations James Bryce detailed the water park’s composition, listing a basketball goal, a climbing wall, an interactive play system in the zero-depth entry, a current channel and two slides.

“One is real wide, we call it a family slide, and three people can go down at the same time,” Bryce said. “The other one is a flume slide with a couple of twists.”

Additional amenities include a board/training room for lifeguards or resident parties, showers, restrooms and a wide entry breezeway.

The Shawnee Splash website offers more details about the water parks.

• The City of Shawnee's two outdoor aquatic facilities operate seasonally. The largest outdoor municipal water park in the area features many attractions: two water slides, a 25-yard competition pool with log roll and climbing wall, interactive leisure pool –– which include a lazy river pool, play structure and a large dumping bucket.

• The 241,000-gallon diving well includes two diving boards and a large climbing wall.

• Boy Scout Park Splash Pad, at the corner of Main and Pesotum streets, has various water features. City Manager Justin Erickson noted the splash pad is push-button activated. Features at the 64-by-80-foot space include the Triple Fun Tree, a three-armed structure, the Flower Shower, a jet structure with imitation flower petals, and the Water Whoosh, a 20-foot bucket-equipped feature.

• Hours for the Splash Pad are 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily.

• Both aquatic areas opened May 21.

• Shawnee Splash Water Park's last day of full operation is scheduled for Aug. 7, just before Shawnee Public Schools are to begin on the 8th.

• Some staff will continue to work through Labor Day, with restricted areas and swimming hours.

• Finalized pool hours for Aug. 1 through Sept. 5 will be posted online and at the park by the end of July.

• The last day of operation is set for Labor Day, Sept. 5.

• For more information, visit shawneeok.org/ShawneeSplash.

Tell me your story ideas. You can reach Vicky O. Misa at (405) 214-3962.