As Tribune readers may have read in this newspaper, Waunakee Village officials are embarking on potential plans for the next large projects in the community, and they’ll be asking for residents’ opinions.

Last week, the parks and recreation committee gave its approval for a consultant to present options for a community aquatic facility, starting with a standalone splash park all the way to a large facility with a swimming pool. The committee’s recommendation to engage a consultant from Ayres Associates will soon come to the village board for a vote.

The hope is that this consultant will solicit enough public opinion for officials to gauge what they will support. Those who have any sort of an interest in a public water park – and those who don’t – should seize the opportunity to weigh in.

Waunakee already has an indoor pool at the high school with limited hours for public use. Several subdivisions also have outdoor pools for its residents. But for many families, no outdoor recreation area with an aquatic feature is available – unless you consider Six Mile Creek as such.

When talking to others in Waunakee, they’ll often comment on Middleton’s splash park on Allen Boulevard, where families can often be seen playing in summer months. Middleton also has an outdoor pool, and its large indoor pool at the high school is often available for lap swimmers. Sun Prairie and Lodi also offer community pools.

The village board has gathered some information from its financial consultant regarding the debt and tax impact of such a facility. Todd Taves of Ehlers Associates indicated that Waunakee could stay within its own self-imposed debt limit – half of that imposed by the state – if the village were to borrow for an aquatic facility.

The operational costs, however, remain unclear, and perhaps the consultant could provide that information.

Important, for now, is that community members get involved in the process, at its beginning. Should the village board approve hiring the consultant, which appears likely, the park and recreation committee will set a public listening session in August.

That’s a perfect time for residents to learn more about the options and costs, and to get involved. Other projects, such as the new public library, took more than a decade to plan, and once a price tag came to light and village officials began to proceed, some residents voiced their opposition. But by then, the wheels were in motion for this facility, which is now set to open in August.

Let’s hope the same scenario does not play out again as officials plan for a public water park. With plenty of opportunity for public participation early in the planning, that doesn’t have to happen again.

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