EDEN — The city’s first splash pad is set to blast its inaugural fountains by July 1, but community members on social media have kept up a flurry of complaint about the admission price.

In late May, the City of Eden announced through Facebook that daily admission rates for the Freedom Park Splash Pad will be $4 for city residents and $5 for non-residents, while children under age four and folks over age 55 are admitted for free.

The charge is prohibitive, argued scores of respondents to the late May Facebook price post, with some residents stating they will opt to stay home and cool their children with the garden hose or seek splash pads in the region that offer free admission.

But city officials say they may have a satisfactory solution to put to a vote June 18 at the city’s regular city council meeting – a season pass that green lights unlimited visits to the city’s Mill Avenue pool and the splash pad for $40 per person.

Critics on social media, though, say even that price is too high for families with multiple children.

The $800,000 recreational site is designed with bright flowers, fish and cartoon snail sculptures, all sprinklers in disguise, and positioned near the facility’s dog parks and pavilion.

A grant for $500,000 from the North Carolina Department of Cultural and Natural Resources covered the cost of the actual water features, while the City of Eden pumped in another $300,000 to fund a bathhouse and concessions and amenities like seating.

Bright on the park’s horizon, a giant yellow bucket is perched high to periodically dump 50 gallons of water onto a chute for a refreshing cascade, while translucent stylized palm fronds and giant flowers finish out the 5,000 square-foot concrete pad’s landscape.

Workers were busy Monday with carpentry for the bathhouse and said they’ve had successful test runs of the splash pad fountains..

Eden’s Mayor Pro Tem Jim Burnette and Director of the Eden’s Department of Parks and Recreation Johnny Farmer explained admission fees will pay for three staff members for the recreational feature, as well as cost of water and maintenance of the pad.

“We did have a lot of discussion at our meeting about the cost of the splash pad and consistency of cost with the pool that we operate,’’ Burnette said in an email. “We did look at what other cities charge and looked at those varying costs … some were free and some higher.’’

“However, we believe that with our overall low cost amenities that the city offers, that this was a reasonable charge to make sure that we were able to cover our costs, especially when you factor in that we will not charge for seniors or children under four years of age,’’ Burnette said.

“When we came up with our price, we looked at what we were charging at Mill Avenue pool,’’ said Farmer of the pool’s $4 admission fee. “We are also using city dollars to finish building this and you have to have people to man it,’’ he said, explaining the splash pad play area has a capacity for 150 guests at a time with three staff monitoring for safety.

“And we’re giving our residents a cheaper rate than non-residents,’’ Farmer said.

Around the Triad, there are quite a few free "spraygrounds'' with splash pads similar to Eden's. Greensboro lists at least two, while Winston-Salem has five.

Burnette also stressed the $40 annual pass option means a two for one deal for residents, “So in essence that is making the plash pad free,’’ he wrote.

While the target date for completion is July 1, Farmer said the splash pad may open a bit earlier.

The facility will operate daily from noon to 6 p.m. and Farmer anticipates keeping fountains flowing into September.

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Susie C. Spear is a staff writer for RockinghamNow. She can be reached at 743-333-4101 and on Twitter @SusieSpear_RCN.​

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