Castaway Cove Delays Construction of New Water Slide, Plans to Open Park Remain
Construction on the AquaLoop water slide at Wichita Falls' Castaway Cove Water Park is on hold indefinitely, due to potential city water restrictions that could interfere with the park's plans to open this summer.
The park was to begin construction on the new slide - a 60-foot tall award-winning attraction, costing about $1 million, that hurls riders into a loop at speeds of up to 40 mph - in March, in order to be ready for the 2014 season.
Wichita Falls may be forced to implement stage 5 drought restrictions this summer, under which private and public pools cannot be filled with the city's water. The restrictions will only go into effect if the combined water levels of Lake Arrowhead and Lake Kickapoo reach 25 percent. They sit currently at 26.9 percent.
We live in and care about this community very much, and feel the effects of the drought just as much as our neighbors
With that threat looming, park managers are playing it safe and putting off construction of the slide.
Castaway Cove Park Manager Steve Vaughn tells us his staff is planning for the best, working as if Castaway Cove will open this summer. But the park won't begin constructing the new slide until the fall of 2014 at the soonest.
Some Wichita Falls residents have questioned whether building a new water slide at a city-owned water park is a good use of money as the city remains in dire need of water. However, Vaughn says the majority of the funding for the new slide came not from taxes but from the water park's own reserves, and that one-quarter of the money came from taxes specially set aside for tourist facilities, sports venues, and parks.
"We live in and care about this community very much, and feel the effects of the drought just as much as our neighbors," Vaughn said when asked about opening a water park in the midst of a severe drought. "It's important for people to realize, when in full operation, [that] Castaway Cove uses less water than a standard hotel and less than most car washes," he added.
According to the city, the annual consumption of water at Castaway Cove Water Park is less than .3 percent of the total annual water use in the city. During the off season, the pools at Castaway Cove are kept full to reduce water use, and the water is always recirculated and filtered.
Castaway Cove Sales & Marketing Manager Karen Hardi says that they are still selling season passes to the park, holding on to the possibility that more rain will come between now and the first week of June when the water park plans to be open for business. "If the time comes and the park does not open, then rest assured that our first priority is taking care of our guests, and refunds will be available," says Hardi.
Russell Schreiber, Director of Public Works in Wichita Falls, says that if conditions remain the same, the new restrictions that will close Castaway Cove will be in place by June. But with water-reuse projects and cloud seeding operations underway, there's a chance the rains will come and the park can open as usual.
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