Water Park RenderingOn Tuesday, April 27, a new video appeared on Facebook that talked about a water park coming to First Lake.

Splashifax (https://splashifax.com/ and https://www.facebook.com/Splashifax) is working to set up a water park on the shores of First Lake, by the Sackville Arena. We would be able to park in the Sackville Arena parking lot and head behind the Arena to get to the entrance.

Everyone has been wondering about the water park. This includes many community members, and also includes community groups like the Friends of First Lake. We’ve been wondering things like: where will the park be, how big is the park, how much is admission, when will it be open, how safe is it, what about water quality and boating, and much more. I’ve been collecting the questions and have been sending them to Splashifax.

On Tuesday, May 11, two weeks after the web site went live, I hosted a public information meeting. This was to allow us to get more information from Splashifax in one shot, and to get many of our questions answered. The information that was included in the presentation and that was provided at the meeting all came from Splashifax.

On Tuesday, Jun 8, six weeks after Splashifax announced that they were opening on First Lake, I filed a petition with the Clerks office and read the following at Regional Council:

On April 27, Splashifax announced that they would be opening on First Lake on June 15.
With that the community became both engaged and enraged.
After a long year and a half of COVID, hundreds wanted to see something new and fun, outdoors, on the lake, for kids to do. Hundreds of others were concerned about the environment and all sorts of other aspects of the park.
Today, six weeks after the park was announced, I would like to present a petition that has 567 signatures that speaks against having Splashifax on First Lake.
Over 50% are from the greater Sackville area, and another 30% are from the rest of HRM.
The text of the petition is:
Due to community concerns including; public safety, increased traffic, aesthetics, environmental concerns and lack of planning we are asking you to sign this petition to stop splashifax from setting up on First Lake.
Splashifax announced, last week, that they were looking at Lake Echo and were no longer looking at First Lake.
Although the water park will not be set up in First Lake, we do hope that all of the planning and permits will be in place before it opens.
Mr Mayor, this petition against the Splashifax, and the 567 signatures, has been provided to the Clerks office.

Following that, I haven’t heard from Splashifax.

On Wednesday, July 7, Splashifax announced that they were opening on Second Lake, in Hammonds Plains, on July 16. They say that they now have permits in place and they have now announced the cost of $40 for 90 minutes of time on the water park.

You can download the presentation and watch the video by expanding the items below.

May 11 Meeting Video (on Youtube)

Presentation (PDF)

I have also received a number of questions and have grouped them in to the items below. This information has come mainly from the meeting and other correspondence with Splashifax, but it has also come from other places. As I find out new or updated information I will keep this updated.

Water Park Location, Layout, and Size

Water Park Location - Sackville Arena

The water park is planned to be accessed from behind the Sackville Arena at 91 First Lake Drive

Water Park Size - Sackville Arena

The water park will be accessed by a floating dock that is 60 metres long. The park itself, which is measured as the yellow floating safety perimeter, will be nearly 70 metres wide and 70 metres deep.

The largest item in the park will be a 50 foot tall unicorn. That is taller than every building in Lower Sackville.

Where will people park?

This was one of the most common questions during the meeting on May 11. I have included a detailed analysis of it, below, where I'm taking information from the meeting and working in information from other places. If you find an error in my logic, my assumptions, or my calculations then please let me know.

The basis for the traffic is the number of people who will be using the park at any one time. Splashifax has said that they will be allowing a maximum of 50 people on the park at any one time. There will also be a 10 minute transition period between any two groups of 50 people.

That means that there will be 100 people (not including staff) that will need parking. If we assume 2 people per car, and add some cars for a margin of error, we're looking at about 60 cars in total.

We could add another 10-15 cars for staff, who would be there all day.

Splashifax has said that they will have a couple of shipping containers there that will deliver the water park pieces and will then be converted in to change rooms. If they're in the parking lot then we lose about 10 parking spots.

If bingo is in then we lose about 50% of the lot -- about 101 spots.

The front and side of the Sackville Arena / Bingo Centre parking lot can hold about 202 cars, based on my count of parking spots. I'm not including behind the Arena or the upper Taiso parking lot.

All of that, put together, is:

202 divided in half (for bingo) = 101 spots for Splashifax.

101 minus 15 for staff and 10 for shipping containers = 76 spots, to accommodate 60 cars.

Since only half of those cars will be on the road at any one time then we'll only see 30 cars, from Splashifax, on First Lake Drive at any one time.

That's far fewer than any hockey game that we've seen in normal times.

We have also been told that there was overflow parking across the street at the Sobeys parking lot, but we have not been able to confirm this.

Water Park location and size - Sack-a-wa

On May 14, Splashifax filed a second application with Transport Canada here: https://nwar-rlen.tc.gc.ca/files-dossiers/2021-204350 which has the location of the park being much closer to, and probably on, Sack-a-wa property.

Instead of the a 70 metre dock, this location has an 83 metre dock.

Instead of a 202 space parking lot there is now a 23 space parking lot behind Taiso and unknown parking at Sack-a-wa.

This application was filed to allow for a second option to locate the park. They still have issues to work through before finalizing a location.

Customer Experience

What can customers expect when they show up?

When customers arrive they park in the Sackville Arena lot.

They will then proceed behind the Sackville Arena where there will be a ticket booth and cubbies for things like clothes (please leave all valuables in your car).

There will be limited stalls for changing.

Once you have your ticket, you can proceed to the Ticket Collector, who will be located by the orange square in the image.

After that you proceed along the floating dock to the water park.

How will you use the park?
  1. Buy a ticket online and fill out a waiver. You will be emailed a safety video to review before you arrive.
  2. Arrive 30 minutes prior to start time.
  3. Check in with the registration desk and get an identification bracelet for your time slot.
  4. Get a life jacket.
  5. Put your shoes and any clothes in a cubby.
  6. Proceed to the Splashifax Trail Crossing Guard to wait until a safe time to cross the trail
  7. Head down the dock.
  8. Jump in the water at the end of the dock, and swim to the water park.
    • Most people will stay in the water 45 to 60 minutes.
    • At the end of your session, the lifeguard will announce it is time to leave.
  9. Proceed to the dock when it is time to leave. Maintain appropriate social distancing.
  10. On the shore dunk your lifejacket in a provided barrel and then hang it to dry on the provided
  11. Grab your items from the cubby and head back to your car.

Through the meeting Splashifax clarified that you will place your lifejacket in the barrel and they will then spray it.

Can you use your own life jacket?


What is the cost?

They have not worked out the cost yet.

What other amenities are there?

A lemonade and hotdog stand will be on site, operated by a Lee's Lemonade. Unfortunately we don't have information about Lee's Lemonade.

About 20 picnic tables will be nearby for lunch.

Washroom facilities are in the Arena.

Access to the First Lake Trail will not be obstructed in any way.

When will it be open? How many customers at a time?

Splashifax will be open from mid June to Mid September, 7 days a week,10 am to 8 pm.

Tickets will be available for the following 90 minute time slots:

  • 10:20 - 11:50
  • 12:00 - 13:30
  • 13:40 - 15:10
  • 15:20 - 16:50
  • 17:00 - 18:30
  • 18:40 - 20:10

A maximum of 50 people will be allowed on the park for each time slot.

The time between the time slots will be for the previous customers to get in from the park, life guards to have a break, life jackets to be sanitized, and the next set of customers to get out on to the park.

What about safety and security?

What about lifeguards and first aid?

Splashifax will have a ratio of 1 lifeguard for every 20 customers. The regulations for Nova Scotia are here: https://novascotia.ca/dhw/environmental/documents/aquatic-guidelines/Nova-Scotia-Operational-Aquatic-Guidelines.pdf

Everyone will be in a life jacket.

First aid equipment will be available for the lifeguards.

What about safety boats?

2 rescue boats (zodiacs) will be will be in the water, equipped with electric motors.

A floating perimeter will be around the park to ensure that motorboats will not get too close.

What about daytime security?

During the day it will be easy to spot those that haven’t signed the waiver and bought tickets because they won’t have Splashifax lifejackets on.

Staff will keep an eye out for people who don't have Splashifax specific life jackets on, and will get them off the water park.

What about night time security?

A security guard will be on site all night.

If trespassers attempt to access the water park at night, the security guard will speak to them. If they don't leave then the police will be called.

The water park will have flashing lights around the perimeter.

What about COVID and cleaning?

How will you clean the water park through the season?

Lake water will be used to spot clean the water park

Cleaning will be done manually. No pumps or cleaners will be used on the water.

End of season cleaning will be done on dry land after the park components are removed from the water

What about the life jackets?

Life jackets will be cleaned with an environmentally friendly COVID disinfecting solution.

At the end of the day this will be disposed of down the drain.

What about the registration area?

The registration area will be regularly disinfected.

How will you ensure COVID protocols are adhered to?

A COVID compliance officer will be on site.

Environmental Concerns

What about the e.coli in the lake?

Splashifax has committed to test the water, by the park, for the amount of e.coli. This test will be performed every week, and the results will be put on their web site.

The Friends of First Lake will also be testing the e.coli in various locations around the lake at various points through the summer. This will be used to establish a baseline for the lake and see how it changes over the years and in the various locations.

What about the shoreline?

The shoreline is part of the property owned by LDRA. In the image below, HRM owns the property with the purple overlay.

That being said, even though it is LDRA property, HRM has jurisdiction over a 20 metre setback from the lake.

For Splashifax to get the development permit from HRM they will work with an HRM development officer. This will determine what could be done within a 20 metre setback.

What about the general lake health?

For Splashifax to get the permit from the provincial Department of the Environment, they have to respect all of the environmental regulations from the Department.

The Friends of First Lake (FOFL) will also be testing general lake health properties. These tests will be conducted at the same time and in the same places that FOFL will be testing the lake for e.coli. We are very interested in seeing the lake return to be a healthy lake.

Regulatory Information – Is this a done deal?

What permits are required?

We have found that the water park needs permits from 3 levels of government. They have to get permits from Transport Canada, the provincial Dept of Environment, and HRM.

What permits do they have?

Splashifax has said that they are working on getting the permits. As of May 11, they did not have any permits.

Transport Canada Application - Sackville Arena

Splashifax filed an application with Transport Canada on May 11 for the water park to be located behind the Sackville Arena. That application is here: https://nwar-rlen.tc.gc.ca/files-dossiers/2021-204323

Transport Canada Application - Sack-a-wa

Splashifax filed an application with Transport Canada on May 14 for the water park to be located behind the Sackville Arena. That application is here: https://nwar-rlen.tc.gc.ca/files-dossiers/2021-204350

HRM zoning, including a 20 metre setback from the lake

The HRM zoning, for that end of the lake, is all P-1 and P-2. The land use by-laws for P-1 and P-2 allow for "recreation" uses, and the definition explicitly excludes "commercial recreation" uses. Uses in the waterway that connect to a point of land are governed by the zoning on the land that they connect to. Splashifax is a for-profit company, so they may not be able to meet this requirement.

HRM zoning is one of the components that is considered in the development permit.

In addition to the zoning, there is a 20 metre setback from the high water mark of any watercourse (like First Lake) that has to be respected. This is defined in section 4.23 of the land use by-laws, identified below.

The disturbance - of anything - within that 20 metre setback is considered in the development permit.

This 20 metre setback has to be respected, and the development permit has to be obtained, even if this is private land. [19-May-2021]

The below map is from our ExploreHRM GIS system here: https://www.arcgis.com/apps/webappviewer/index.html?id=425cf408196648db994be8f53206f75c

The land use by-laws for this section are located here: https://www.halifax.ca/sites/default/files/documents/business/planning-development/applications/Sackville-LUB-Eff-21Jan30-Case22865-TOCLinked.pdf

What about community consultation?

The most basic form of a permit that is required for this, from HRM, is a development permit. Splashifax would have to meet all of the provisions that are required to get that, and then the permit would be issued.

This is similar to any other business working to get a development permit. The example that I've often used, when talking about this, is the micro brewery on Cobequid Road or the tap room on Sackville Drive. They both had strict requirements to get the permits and, once they satisfied those requirements the permits were issued.

Through the process to get a development permit there is no requirement to have a public consultation.

That being said, if they are looking for a by-law change or a zoning change then there are different processes to follow, and part of that is a public consultation.

Is this a done deal? What could stop it?

Splashifax has to obtain all of the required permits, and the community is working to hold them to that.

Once all of the required permits have been obtained, however, Splashifax will be able to set up the water park. This is similar to any other commercial business. Once it meets all of the regulatory requirements then it is able to proceed.

All Other Information

How much noise will there be?

No music will be played at the park.

What about fans, blowers, or compressors?

Since these are on the water, the pieces of the park are filled with air at the beginning of the summer and are then closed, much like a balloon.

There will be no "active air", like you see with a bouncy castle, and there will be no constant compressor or fan noise.

The pieces will, occasionally, need to be refilled. In this case I am told that the pump will remain on the shore, possibly plugged in to the Arena for power, and a 300' hose will be taken out to the pieces that need to be inflated.

What is LDRA's role?

It seems that LDRA has entered in to a leasing arrangement with Splashifax. Since this is a contract between LDRA and Splashifax, we are not privy to the contents or the conditions of it.

LDRA is also in a contractual relationship with HRM. One of the conditions of that contract is that they will ensure clear access to the First Lake Trail.

What is my (Paul's) role?

I am working to bring the information to our community. I have no involvement with Splashifax or with LDRA.

What do I think about a water park in First Lake?

We are in the middle of a pandemic and have been following the guidelines of provincial health. This has kept us indoors and away from our friends and family, neighbours, restaurants, travel, sports, theatre, social and community activities, and many other activities that we would normally be enjoying.

We could all use a release, and the right outdoor activity would be fantastic.

Our community also has significant and very real concerns with respect to the environment and health of the lake. The lake is in a fragile situation, and we are working to improve its health. Following a sudden development boom, about 50 years ago, and with no environmental controls, First Lake became was seriously damaged. It has taken decades and a lot of work for the lake to recover as much as it has.

It has also had an e.coli problem at Kinsmen Beach for decades.

The best information that we have is that the water by the Sackville Arena has not ever been tested for e.coli. The water park might be placed in an area with a high e.coli count, and it could also have a negative impact on the lake environment. We don't know.

I am funding some testing of the lake health and a count of the e.coli in various locations. Additionally, I have worked with HRM to commit more funds for an depth analysis. This is to determine the source of the e.coli and move to get it resolved.

One of the reasons that I wanted to become a Councillor was to improve the health of First Lake. This lake is one of the many gems in Sackville. I would love to see people be able to use Kinsmen Beach without concern.

I recognize the benefits of having the right outdoor activity, and I appreciate the concerns that have been identified with having a water park.

We need to ensure that those concerns are properly addressed, and that First Lake does not see any further damage.

If you have any questions that aren’t listed here then please get in touch with me at paul.russell@halifax.ca