By Shereen Siewert
WAUSAU — A playground for special needs children and their friends on Wausau’s west side aims to add a splash pad with unique features to accommodate all children for an all-inclusive playground currently under construction.
JoJo’s Jungle is designed to be a 1.5 acre educational playground at Brockmeyer Park on Stettin Drive and is dedicated to Josiah “JoJo” Hoerter, who passed away more than three years ago from complications of a rare genetic condition.
JoJo’s father, Patrick Hoerter, said the proposed water feature fits with the core values of the park.
“We tried to think of a reason to have a water feature in a playground that wasn’t just a place to get wet,” Patrick Hoerter said. “When we saw the Labyrinth at a park in Rosemount Minnesota we knew we found it.”
The diamond shaped pad allows children to play together interactively by controlling the direction of water flow along the feature. They learn about currents; flood plains; and cause and effect. Because the splash pad isn’t over stimulating or excessive in water use, swimwear isn’t always necessary, which allows children to play as part of the overall playground experience.
Hoerter said he was inspired by a child at Marathon Elementary a couple of years ago who was wheelchair bound and wanted a way to interact with the water.
“We saw his classmates rally around him trying to find ways to make that happen,” he said. “So we modified our plan this year to bring some water above ground. We kept it simple, but now everyone can join the fun.”
The city would be required to pay for be water and sewer use, which is estimated at about $13,000 per year on the high side, according to Wausau and Marathon County Parks Director Jamie Polley. Unlike the timed water feature at The 400 Block, the JoJo’s Jungle splash pad would be user-operated and will only generate water flow after one of three activators are manually depressed.
Polley requested the city consider the water cost in the 2020 budgeting process. The parks and recreation committee unanimously approved Polley’s request.
Top image: Courtesy of the city of Wausau