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A Splashing Design for Historic Boys Ranch

By Stephen Kelly, regional editor

ABOVE and BELOW: The original site of the Bedford Splash at Boys Ranch, Bedford, Texas, built in the 1960s, had only a 25-yard lap pool and an asphalt parking lot. With the close proximity of water parks in North Richland Hills and two municipal aquatic facilities in Hurst, Boys Ranch needed a design and water play elements to attract teens, plus meet the needs of elementary-age children. A new lap pool for swimming lessons and recreation competition was required, along with plenty of shade for the park. All this had to be accomplished in a rather tight, one-acre space. The landscape architect created age appropriate zones: an area for tots, one for teens and, buffering those two, a family zone.

Bobo Brings Bedford to Life

Bedford, Texas, site of our featured project, is in northeast Tarrant County, northeast of Fort Worth, population 48,390 (July 2005). You have to love anyplace founded by a person named "Bobo." According to the Online Handbook of Texas, the first "white" settlement here came about when enterprising Weldon Bobo moved from Bedford County, Tenn. in the 1870s and started a general store, gristmill, church and post office, the latter in his home.

Bedford boomed to 1,000 people by the 1890s, but then its fortunes fell dramatically beginning in 1901 when U.S. Highway 80 diverted traffic away from the city. The coup de grace came in 1903 when the Rock Island Railroad also bypassed Bedford. There were at most 80 people residing in Bedford as late as 1940.

The concept of Bedford Splash at Boys Ranch Family Aquatic Center was to create a compact, highly themed municipal family aquatic center with aquatic recreation and play features for tots, families, and teens. Bright colors, a tropical theme and signage were used to create a fun and attractive environment.--Mark Hatchel, RLA, ASLA, Kimley-Horn and Associates, Dallas, Texas

The construction of military bases and defense plants in the area during WWII spurted Bedford's growth to 400 residents by 1953, although about 100 of those lived at Bedford Boy's Ranch, a home for 10-14 year old "wayward boys." Between 1955 and 1960 Bedford expanded geographically from two to over 10 square miles. By 1970, Bedford had 10,000 residents. The old Boy's Ranch was now the town's largest park. Real growth came in the 1970s with completion of the Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport. Industrial park, shopping centers, and restaurants sprang up.

Bedford's smaller town life became more attractive to big city folks and the population increased to 20,800 in 1980, 44,000 in 1990 and 47,152 by 2000.

ABOVE and BELOW: The city of Bedford, Texas desired an entrance that didn't say "municipal building." The sweeping design of the building gives a sense of motion. A Pavestone retaining wall, decorative bollards (Architectural Area Lighting) and hardy bermudagrass were specified. Mark Hatchel, RLA, ASLA, of Kimley-Horn, was also charged with developing a park name and logo.

Just Add Water

Keeping cool in the summer heat is always a worthy an attractive pursuit, so it isn't surprising that inclusion of splashpads in municipal parks are on the rise. The trend, however, is combining pools, water slides, splashpads and water toys all in one location.

ABOVE and BELOW: This apprehensive little one is on the Beached Boat Slide. Her more intrepid counterpart is on her way past the boulder and into the family area pool. Local and state agencies provide little or no guidance in design and operation of water parks, although the American Society for Testing and Materials has a document (WK1074) in the works: "New Standard Practice for Manufacture, Construction, Operations, Maintenance and Water Quality of Interactive Aquatic Play Equipment." For more info, visit and search for WK1074.

To better understand this trend, I spoke with landscape architect Mark Hatchel, RLA, ASLA, of Kimley-Horn, Dallas, Texas. He is a waterpark designer of vast experience and the master planner/designer of our featured facility, Bedford Splash at Boys Ranch (I'm sorely tempted to put an apostrophe (Boy's), but that's not Bedford's style.

After getting his landscape architect degree at Texas A & M, he spent 15 years with a engineering/planning and landscape architecture firm in Arlington, Texas, heavily involved with water park and water slide design. The firm's major client was Wet & Wild and Mark worked on water park projects in Arlington, Texas and Las Vegas, Nev. He left the firm in 1993 to work for Wet & Wild as director of architectural services and remained there until 1997. During that period he worked on several large, international franchise parks. Wet & Wild had a contract to do four parks in Brazil and one in Cancun, Mexico. Hatchel spent the first year working on the Rio de Janeiro project. He then went to work for Schlitterbahn Waterparks in New Braunfels, Texas for two years, prior to joining Kimley-Horn in 1999.

Who knew a landscape architect could have such extensive water park design credentials?

"I may be the only person who has worked for both Wet & Wild and Schlitterbahn," Hatchel chuckles.

The leisure pool leads to a looping current channel that flows around isles of faux palms. The pool decks are sand blasted and stained concrete with heavy to medium broom finish for slip resistance.

If you are unfamiliar with Schlitterbahn Waterparks, the Travel Channel rated its resorts as "America's number one waterpark" and produced an hour-long show about its water parks. These aren't just splash pads and pools. Schlitterbahn's six-story "Master Blaster" is an uphill water coaster, frequently voted "Best Waterpark Ride." Riders are "blasted uphill on streams of jetted water." The 1,000-foot-long ride has six uphill sections and features a coaster-style 36-degree, 27-foot drop. At Schlitterbahn, Hatchel helped design a water park in Turkey (and you thought Turks had no fun), a large Mayan-themed park in China and master plans for other international projects.

The zero-entry Leisure Pool has a maximum depth of 18 inches deep, a safety design feature. From left: a play piece (SCS Interactive), the Rain Drop (NBGS International) and, if you are an unsuspecting first-timer you might receive a surprise drenching from above. No, it's not raining, it's the artificial palm tree (right) whose "coconuts" fill with water until they become top heavy and tip their contents on your head.

At Kimely-Horn Hatchel has taken what he has learned of designing commercial parks and translated it to municipal aquatic centers.


The city budget's for the waterpark was 3.8 million, including construction, architectural fees, and indirect cost like the topographic survey and geotechnical investigation.

First, the landscape architect helped the city decide the location of the waterpark. The city thought of placing some of the waterpark behind the Activity Center and some in front. The LA felt it need to be integral. Spliting it would be more costly and necessitate moving utility lines. The open field, existing buildings and functionality drove the layout. This space, however was slightly less than one acre.

The Lily Pad Walk is a popular test of balance in water parks and designs vary. This one traverses over water only three and one-half feet deep, with water cannons on the side to distract the walker and only a single rope to help equilibrium. The tree in back is a live oak that was designed around. The big slide is the "Turbo Twister," a Pro Bowl water slide that swoops the victim down a 130-foot tube into an 18-feet wide blue and white striped toilet-bowl shaped structure. Momentum circles you once or twice around the bowl, then down the center hole into an eight-foot deep pool.

It was necessary to replace the old asphalt parking with concrete parking on the backside of the center with a large drop-off area in front of the waterpark.

Other site details were setting up power near the Arts Theatre used for the food concessions during special events and power for the large portable stage. There were also some ramps and steps down to the old pool that would have to be tied into the new design.

As turf doesn't work well near chlorine pools, boulders quarried from north of Dallas were selected as a border. They also serve as an erosion deterrent. This is the adult ADA compliant zero-depth entry pool. The zero-entry pool decks have 3/8 in. poured-in-place playground safety surface made from 75 percent recycled rubber. (SAF DEK by Pathway Surfaces, Inc.). It is seamless, porous and slip-resistant and feels soft and spongy underfoot.

Design Ideas

What would the new waterpark look like? Hatchel explaining the site was near a successful water park in North Richland Hills, Texas called NRH20, and two municipal aquatic facilities in Hurst, Texas. Hatchel, in fact, did the original master plans on the Hurst projects in the early 1990s, some of the first new leisure-style pools in the Dallas-Fort Worth area and, while at Schlitterbahn, was part of the team that implemented the Green Extreme ride at NRH20. He also did strategic master planning for a children's playpool addition in North Richland Hills. With the proximity of these other water facilities, Boys Ranch wanted something different: a building facade that didn't look municipal; more water-play "theming"; something to attract the teens; a lap pool for swimming lessons and recreation competition; and plenty of shade for the park. All this had to be accomplished in a rather tight space. In addition, he had to design a parking lot to serve not only the water park but the adjacent Arts Theater and Activity Center.

This summer Texas had weeks of 100 degree temperatures. Specifically designed for water and theme parks, these blue, yellow and red Coolbrellas shades span 20 feet. There are no wheels, wires or pulleys. An in-ground mount is available.Compared to pools, splash pads cost much less to install and run. However, those systems with recirculating water have to keep a close eye on the mechanical operations (e.g., controllers that open and close valves in a sequence) and the sanitation levels. Whether water is bubbling, spraying from structures or water toys, it must quickly drain. Photo courtesy of Sun Ports International


One of the design concepts he incorporates for municipal water facilities is creating zones: an area for tots, one for teens and buffering those two by a family zone. This makes it easier for mom and dad to watch the little ones, while giving the teens their own space to cavort. The family zone sits in the middle of the park and includes Splash Beach, a zero-edge pool (zero to 18 in. deep), rain drop waterfall, a current channel, a lily pad walk, two slides, tipping coconut palm trees, bubblers and water umbrella. To one side of the family zone is the tot area (Guppy Cove), with a zero-grade entry pool (zero to 6 in.), a Tiki boat slide and sea turtle Lil' Squirt.

Bedford Splash is a great example of how much variety, excitement and shade can be packed into a compact facility. Families with small children like the way the park is laid out--separating the tots from the teens, and teens like the more extreme Bowl Slide.--Mark Hatchel, RLA, ASLA, Kimley-Horn and Associates, Dallas, Texas

On the other side of the family zone is the designated teen area (Snorkel Bay), which includes a six-lane, 25-yard, four-feet deep lap pool used for swimming lessons and competitive recreation, a sunning area where the teens can hang out, and larger slides, including the "Turbo Twister" (aka "Flush"), a Pro Bowl water slide that swoops the victim down a 130-foot tube into an 18-feet wide blue and white striped toilet-bowl shaped structure. Momentum circles you once or twice around the bowl, then down the center hole into an eight-foot deep pool.

The turtle, mushroom fountain (right), palm trees (plus tipping cocoanuts) and beach boat slide are all from NBGS International. Besides underwater lighting, the area is lit via 14 ft. light poles (Architectural Area Lighting) and 25 ft. mast lights (Sterner Lighting).

Bedford Splash amenities include the Tiki Hut (food stand), restrooms with showers and lockers, a family restroom, shaded eating areas and the "Cabana" rental party pavilion. The office area of the building has large glass windows to afford a view for the pool manager.

Bedford Splash amenities include the Tiki Hut (food stand), restrooms with showers and lockers, a family restroom, shaded eating areas and the "Cabana" rental party pavilion. The office area of the building has large glass windows to afford a view for the pool manager.

Other Design Considerations

Hatchel does not specify flowering trees and other ornamental landscaping on the waterpark grounds, as it creates a problem for the park operations people. Grass areas are generally not placed near the pools, although there is turf (bermudagrass) on site, which is tough enough for the heat and foot traffic.

Bedford Splash at Boys Ranch

Owner: city of Bedford

City project manager: James Hughes (now park director)

Landscape architect firm: Kimley-Horn in Dallas, Texas

Master planning/design: Mark Hatchel, RLA, ASLA

  • 3,700 sq. ft. bathhouse
  • 5,850 sq. ft. leisure pool
  • Two water slides
  • 490 sq. ft. tot pool
  • Teen Bowl Slide
  • Current channel
  • 490 sq. ft. wet deck
  • 4,600 sq. ft. multi-use pool
  • Group pavilion
  • $3.8 million budget
  • Opened in 2003

The Case for Shade

Ultraviolet light has two forms: A and B (UVA and UVB) rays.


  • Can pass through window glass.
  • Is not affected by a change in altitude or weather.
  • Is present all day, every day of the year.
  • Penetrates deep into skin.
  • Comprises 5% of the sun's rays.
  • Is 20 times more abundant than UVB rays.
  • Affects long-term skin damage


  • Cannot pass through window glass.
  • Causes sunburn/tanning.
  • Helps the body with vitamin D production.
  • Is most intense in the summer and at midday.
  • Varies with weather conditions.
  • Is more intense at high altitudes or nearer the equator.
  • Is 0.5% of the sun's rays.
  • Is protected against by the sun protection factor (SPF) in sunscreens.
  • Is related to more than 90% of nonmelanoma skin cancer.
  • Is related to cataracts.

Source: healthwise

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December 6, 2019, 1:30 pm PDT

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