A maze-like playground area where children can safely run around, chase each other, try to guess when the water will get them, and scream and run away when several dozen water sprays come on unexpected and all at once.
The first sprayground I ever saw was in communist Leningrad (now restored to its historical name, St. Petersburg).
It was July of 1966, and I was one of 25 high school Russian language teachers on a graduate study tour of the USSR sponsored by the National Science Foundation.
One of the tour stops was Peterhof (Petrodvorets), often called the Russian Versailles, the summer palace and park in St. Petersburg established by Peter the Great.
While visiting Peterhof (Peter’s Palace), I spent a good hour watching children run through an area roughly 100′ by 100′ and cluttered with pathways up, down, in and around small hills – like a little, open maze. Every so often water would spring up all around the area, sending the kids screaming and laughing and running away.
It was fun to watch, but even more fun when I realized that a little old man sitting on a park bench close to one side of the area was controlling the spray by pressing on a pedal with his foot. The children knew the water was coming, but never knew exactly when. I spoke with him long enough to learn that he was a state employee and controlling the spray was his job.
Now I serve on a volunteer board, Parks, Recreation, and Cultural Resources, in Wake Forest, NC, and we are energetically pursuing construction of one or more spraygrounds for the Town’s children to enjoy in hot weather.
Contrasted with a pool, a sprayground is much less expensive both to build and maintain, and could be built to require that I sit around for hours making the children scream and laugh and run away by pushing on a secret pedal.
Actually, modern spraygrounds have replaced the little old man with a computer chip that randomly activates the water.
And almost as much fun to watch.