There are still some chain link fences and uncovered pipes around the new splash pad at Garfield Park in Ashland but Briar Cloud Wood, 4½, sees only fun on a hot almost summer day.

“It seems like the kids love it,” said his dad, John, while watching his son ducking under a huge spitting frog and smaller mushroom like gizmos spouting water. "I’m proud the community did this. It seems like money well spent."

The park had been under construction for the past three months. In addition to updating the splash pad, the city’s Parks and Recreation Department created a concrete half-wall around the sand volleyball courts and rebuilt the basketball court, adding a covered picnic area next to it.

That’s where Mike McCollum had his class from Ashland High School for an inaugural barbecue.

“It’s a vast improvement with the covered areas," he said. "It’s nice to have it shaded; we used to have to bring our own.”

“Since we had so many things deteriorating at the same time, we thought we’d see if there could be other things that could be done at the same time to maximize dollars and impact,” says Park Director Michael Black.

Garfield Park is among the city’s most used and loved parks so Black says the improvements are being met with enthusiasm.

“Ashlander’s love that spot. It’s a great place, a kind of neighborhood spot. They were counting the days until it re-opened.”

Black estimates hundreds of people used it over the Memorial Day Holiday when it wasn’t totally finished but finished enough so the water could be turned on.

“It got a lot of use. When we opened there were already two dozen people waiting.”

The park improvements cost roughly $890,000.

“We upgraded the system with better sand filtration, we added showers and foot washing stations, we’ve moved the entrance to the volleyball court so it doesn’t lead right to the splash pad,” Black says. “The other system was so old, not the same caliber as this one. Our staff became experts at putting things back together when it broke down.”

Now he says the water area is standardized and the parts will be easy to get should they break or fail.

And the new basketball court is on a softer surface with more give, it’s newly painted and there are new regulation-size hoops. It’s getting a lot of play as is the volleyball court. “People have been out there pretty much non stop since we opened it back up,” Black said.

It will be another two weeks before the area will be totally finished and cleaned up.

“It’s very satisfying. The team did an excellent job delivering this to the public,” said Black, who reflected on the legacy of the project. “It makes me feel good, this is what we’ve done recently to improve the community. We’re here to help improve people’s lives. Short of that I’m not sure we’re fulfilling our mission.”

— Email Ashland freelance writer Julie Akins at julieanneakins@gmail.com and follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/@julieakins.