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Wetlands set to open for season on May 26

Summer is almost here, and the season’s perfect vacation spot may be closer than you think. In fact, it’s just around the corner.
“I hate to brag, but we’re looking pretty good this year,” said Matt Townsend, director of Wetlands Water Park, Jonesborough’s family-oriented aquatic site on Persimmon Ridge Road. “To me, it has a real vacation feel about it. There is music playing, the smell of suntan lotion, the sound of laughter and the feel of water on your skin. It’s a mini-vacation right in our own hometown.”
Set to open Saturday, May 26, at 10 a.m., Wetlands Water Park features everything from kid-friendly water bubblers, tumble buckets, an otter slide, lazy river and zero-depth wading pool to the more exciting fiberglass flume slides — three in all — that include an 80-foot enclosed slide, a 100-foot open slide and a 200-foot gigantic slide. The park also has a cafe, pavilions for shade and chairs for relaxing.
Once the park opens, hours will be 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Friday and noon to 6 p.m. Sunday.
Admission is $12 for ages 13 and up; $9 for children ages 4-12; and $9 for seniors. Children ages 3 and under are admitted free. Admission also drops to half price after 3 p.m. Season passes are available, as are group rates.
“The season passes and afternoon discounts are a great deal, especially for local residents,” Townsend said.
The water park also offers swim lessons — now being scheduled for the summer — and private parties.
“We’ve built a good, wholesome and safe place for kids and their families,” said Rachel Conger, Jonesborough’s Parks and Recreation director. “Parents trust us, and they trust our staff. And we have something for everyone, from the little bitty guys to fun-loving teenagers and their parents.”
Wetlands has quite a few other things going for it, as well, Conger said.
First, she cites an amazing and dedicated staff, many who are returning to Wetlands this year. Next, Conger considers Townsend, the park’s new director, a big plus for 2012 as he brings a fresh perspective to the site. And finally, Conger believes Wetlands Water Park has always done well and will continue to do so because it remains grounded in sound financial principles.
“We’re doing well,” Conger said. “Each year, we’re making a profit.”
That’s no coincidence, according to Town Administrator Bob Browning. When Jonesborough first began to consider some type of aquatic facility, he said, they looked at facilities in the region.
“When we looked into operating costs, we couldn’t find any area pool that was even covering those costs, much less debt service,” Browning recalled. “We went to other states and did find, however, when the pools were built with water park-type features and the focus was on the family instead of swim teams and lap swimmers, the pools were doing great.”
Town officials opted for a water park, which opened in 1993, and never regretted that decision.
“In the beginning, we knew we wanted to at least cover our operating costs, and we have always done that,” Browning said. “We have also generated a profit the last number of years, employed over 70 people during the summer, and served thousands of people”
Those statistics, he believes, indicate a pretty good record for the Town of Jonesborough.
“When you look at Wetlands almost 20 years later, it looks even better than the day it opened,” Browning said. “People said how does little Jonesborough think they can run a water park? I guess we’re the little engine that could.”
For more information about Wetlands Water Park, visit www.wetlandsjonesborough.com or call 753-1561or 743-1030..
— Lisa Whaley is a free-lance writer contracted by the Town of Jonesborough to write “Talk of the Town.” Have a suggestion for a topic for the column? Call Town Hall at 753-1031 or e-mail [email protected]