Splash pad, 24-hour access among highlights of 2018

Cary Ashby • Updated Feb 25, 2019 at 3:23 PM

Two of the biggest successes the Norwalk park and recreation department saw in 2018 were the new splash pad and offering 24-hour access to the Ernsthausen Community Center.

More than 400 people attended the June 2 grand opening of the splash pad, despite it being a cold day. The 40-by-80 foot aquatic-recreation area is east of the zero-depth entry for the outside pool.

“The splash pad has been a big success,” department superintendent Joe Lindenberger said. “It was a great new amenity to add.”

Another big success for park and rec was allowing 24-hour access to Ernsthausen.

In the first 10 months, workers distributed more than 1,800 key cards and there are 1,631 current cardholders. Since March 2018, there have been about 9,850 swipes to allow access to the recreation center. Referring to the security measures, Lindenberger said he and his staff are pleased with “the bells and whistles” they have in place and said there have been very few problems.

Norwalk city council heard the annual report from Lindenberger during a recent meeting. 

In early September, a therapy pool liner was installed. Lindenberger said the swimmers are pleased and the new liner should last 15 to 20 years.

City crews erected a new shelter at Baines Park, 440 Austin Shadle Drive, in May. That replaced the original one from the 1980s. Netting in the batting cages is also new.

June 12 was Olympus Community Give Back Day, when employees performed 20 jobs in eight parks.

“We appreciate them giving back to the community,” Lindenberger said.

Pickleball remains popular with people who are ages 50 and older, he added. There are about 60 players on the mailing list. Indoor pickleball brought in $2,800 in revenue in 2018.

“The group loves playing. … They play two or three times a week,” Lindenberger said. “In the future, I’d expect we’ll have more pickleball courts.”

The new canoe rental program, which started in June, has made $2,000 for park and rec. Users can rent a canoe for $10 a day by picking up a key at the recreation center.

“It’s been a big hit; they love it,” Lindenberger said.

There were 104 total participants during the two “Swim and Movie Night” events.

Transform 2018 was a backpacking trip for at-risk youth with six chaperones over the Labor Day weekend. Recreation director Niki Cross coordinated the event, which was for ages 13 to 18.

Seventy-seven dogs participated in the annual Pool Pooch event, which happens after the outside pool is closed for the season. 

Friday Fun Nights, in its third year, averaged 112 participants each night and made $17,900 in revenue. Lindenberger joked with council that people shouldn’t go to Ernsthausen on those Fridays if they expect “peace and quiet” since there are so many fourth- through sixth-grade students running around.

Ernsthausen served 850 children — 27 classes of kids from eight third-grade classes — in the swimming lesson program in 2018.

Last year there were 104 adult softball teams, 32 basketball teams and 11 flag football teams.

About 1,600 children participated in eight youth leagues or programs.

“I hate when people say there’s nothing for kids to do,” Lindenberger said.

The aquatic center collected $702,483 in user fees in 2018 — a 19-percent increase from 2017 ($571,000.) Park and rec had $393,000 in user fees last year compared to $375,000 in 2017.

Last year, the top five revenue-makers were: Passes ($491,000), adult softball ($74,000), general admission ($115,000), Silver Sneakers ($66,000) and youth programs ($49,000), according to the PowerPoint presentation.

There were 6,641 members in 2017, which jumped to 8,268 the following year. Lindenberger said there also was a significant increase in the amount of corporate visits that he and his staff made — 624 in 2018, compared to 497 the previous year.

“Our staff works really hard,” he told council. “They love what they do.”

Norwalk Safety-Service Director Ellen Heinz said she is proud of the passion of the park and rec staff members. She noted that Lindenberger and Cross would be “star employees on anyone’s team.”

Cross told council “we try to put our heart and soul in everything we do.”

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