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Preston — Eight-year-old Aiden Roberts gave Strawberry Park’s new splash pad a ringing endorsement Friday as the facility’s first guest customer.
“I think instead of spending most of the day in the pool, I’ll be spending most of the day in here,” Aiden said.
His announcement surprised grandparents Lori and Jay Barry of Warren, R.I.
“He’s a big pool man,” Jay Barry said.
Aiden, also of Warren, got his grandparents up early Friday to make sure they got to the grand opening ceremony at 8:30 a.m. That was when Strawberry Park Activities Director Michelle Pedro took off her sneaker and stepped on one of two black rubber starter points on the concrete platform.
Instantly, water spouted from the many colorful pipes, umbrella-shaped sprayers and shower heads in the fenced-in area near the campground’s three pools and recreation area. The water runs for 20 minutes at a time, and the black rubber circle has to be stepped on again to keep it running longer.
Strawberry Park owner Ed Mayer, Preston First Selectman Robert Congdon and Jewett City Savings Bank Assistant Vice President Gary Salinsky watched Aiden and Pedro splash and weave in and out of the sprayers with perhaps a bit of envy.
“I think I’m overdressed for the occasion,” Salinsky said, referring to his suit and tie.
Mayer used Friday’s opening of the new splash pad to announce that Strawberry Park, at 42 Pierce Road, will be open to the public for day-trippers for the first time Monday. Visitors will be able to participate in all 35 scheduled supervised daytime activities, use the three pools and the new splash pad for an admission fee of $12 for adults and $6 for children ages 3 to 17. Children under age 3 will be admitted free with an adult.
The splash pad will be open daily from 9 a.m. to dusk.
The splash pad cost $150,000 and consists of a 2,500-gallon underground water tank with filtered, chlorinated water that re-circulates through the system. The project was financed by Jewett City Savings Bank. Mayer said he had hoped to open the facility earlier this summer, but the long winter delayed construction. The facility received its final permits on Wednesday.
Mayer and Elite Resorts of Florida purchased the 160-acre Strawberry Park campground last June for $800,000 following a long, complicated bankruptcy proceeding.
Congdon said the campground, one of the town’s biggest taxpayers, has proven to be a major asset to the town. Congdon welcomed the new splash pad and the opening of the park to day-trippers.
“Ed bought it a year ago, and he’s worked very well with the town, with the building inspectors and the fire marshal,” Congdon said.