By Jen Heller Meservey
Springtime at a waterpark means making sure the water is clean and the wet and wild attractions are running smoothly. That’s why Bill Gehlhaus, owner of Runaway Rapids in Keansburg, N.J., works to complete three important tasks every spring. “The top tasks are, one, the inspection/repair of all slides, filters and electric motors; two, make sure all surface areas are clean and safe; three, make sure all plumbing is operational,” he said. “In short, make sure all things in the park were not affected by the winter.”
Gehlhaus said that he addresses all maintenance concerns as soon as the park closes for the season. “Serious maintenance begins the day after we close to make re-opening the park as problem-free as possible,” he explained.
Water filtration and treatment tasks begin in the spring and continue throughout the summer, according to Gehlhaus. “Our top concern is that the water is absolutely safe and free from any contamination or bacteria,” he said. “We test the chemical levels every two hours and we have a third party vendor take water samples weekly to ensure its quality.”
Buccaneer Bay Waterpark is part of Weeki Wachee Springs State Park in Spring Hill, Fla. The park is built around a natural spring, so keeping it clean is a high priority. “Our top spring maintenance tasks would include our annual cleanup of the spring and main swimming area at the waterpark,” said Park Manager Toby Brewer. “One of our major tasks is the …removal of what we like to call ‘scrunge.’ With the assistance from our lovely Mermaids (yes, I said Mermaids), we help maintain a healthy environment underwater by removing this scrunge, which kills off wildlife and the natural habitat of our underwater world. If it is not removed, the entire spring could be covered, and possibly Weeki Wachee Springs would no longer thrive.”
The natural movement of the spring helps with water filtration, according to Brewer. “All four of our slides run off the spring water,” he said. “We have two intake filters that supply the water to our slides. This water is constantly recirculating through the natural current.”
Brewer said that his top tip for a problem-free summer is to prepare in advance. “Do most of your rehab in the off season,” he advised. “Prepare your budget for those problem maintenance issues that may arise. Always be proactive and try to stay ahead of the game. Last, but not least, be thankful to your staff, because without them, our season would not even happen.”
Sandra Gore, general manager of The Beach Waterpark in Mason, Ohio, said that inspection is an important spring maintenance task. “We carefully go through inspections of all rides and attractions to maintain the quality set forth by the state of Ohio, Department of Agriculture and the Rides and Safety Department,” she said.
Gore added that cleaning is “another huge part” of spring maintenance. “Since our park is outdoors, everything from pools to tables have to be cleaned each spring,” she explained. Once the pools are cleaned and filled, the park’s automatic water filtration system kicks in. “It is monitored on an hourly basis until it reaches the correct level,” Gore said.
“Preventative maintenance” is the key to a problem free summer, according to Gore. “It is imperative that, at the end of the season, everything is cleaned properly, maintained throughout the winter season and then stored, if possible.”
The mild winters in Panama City Beach, Fla., make maintenance tasks easier for Buddy Wilkes, general manager of Shipwreck Island Waterpark. “We can do the projects on our water filtration systems throughout the winter,” he said. “By the time we reach early spring, we have reached the point in our maintenance program where we are either sandblasting, pressure washing or painting every pool in the park.”
Wilkes said that all of the equipment in the park is maintained on a strict schedule. “Every pump, valve, filter or water quality monitoring device has to either be taken apart, replaced or repaired, depending on where it is in the maintenance schedule,” he explained. “Our greatest concern is having total confidence in the distribution of chemicals to provide perfect water quality to every ounce of water in our park. That is why we have a six-person team working throughout our off-season on water quality maintenance.”
A problem-free summer means sticking to the schedule, according to Wilkes. “Build a comprehensive maintenance schedule for every piece of equipment in your park, and be true to the plan,” he recommended. “Never say, ‘It looks OK, we can put that project off for another year.’ You put every piece of equipment on a maintenance schedule for a reason, so follow the schedule. It doesn’t mean nothing will break, but the chances of having a maintenance surprise in the middle of the summer is much less likely with a well-executed plan.”
Cleaning and resurfacing the pools is the top spring maintenance task at Camelbeach Waterpark in Tannersville, Pa., according to Wayne Franks, Jr., director of waterpark operations. “These pool surfaces are like the canvas which the aesthetic beauty of the pool water quality is painted upon,” he said. “If the pool surfaces are not perfect, the water will magnify any imperfections for all eyes to see.”
Franks said that “inspection of all pool water containment” is key to keeping the park running smoothly throughout the summer. “Ensuring that these vessels are watertight will ensure no unnecessary water loss issues,” he explained. “Unnecessary water loss equals a loss of operational efficiency, operational function and a waste of operational budget dollars.”
Preventing summer problems starts with hiring the right people, according to Franks. “Establish a team of water quality professionals that are well trained in all operational aspects of your facility,” he suggested. “Train throughout the operational season with regularly planned in-service training programs, and develop service guidelines and daily checklists for all aspects of operations.”
KeyLime Cove Indoor Waterpark Resort in Gurnee, Ill., operates year-round, so maintenance continues through all four seasons. “Throughout the year, projects are completed during specific periods and spring is no exception,” said Anthony Pollack, the resort’s director of aquatics. “When the weather turns nicer, the focus turns to a spring cleaning of sorts. Projects such as cleaning our heat return units and walking the slide structures outside are examples of priorities in the spring season.”
Water filtration and treatment continues 365 days a year, according to Pollack. “Throughout the year, we ensure that no attractions are ever non-operational for our guests,” he said. “So our staff monitors and maintains the filtration and treatment system 24/7.”
Pollack said that he has procedures in place to keep the park maintained at all times. “Specific efforts are made daily, weekly, monthly and yearly to ensure every aspect of the waterpark is being monitored and maintained 24/7,” he explained. “Consistent completion of checklists and walk-throughs are integral in allowing the staff to be proactive rather than reactive. Every effort is made to catch concerns before they become problems, and to allow our guests to enjoy every aspect of the waterpark each and every day.”