Neighborhood parks across the United States have taken on a new look in recent years. With the addition of ?splashpads,? parks, as well as other nonaquatic settings, including zoos and shopping centers, now provide water-based recreation for young visitors. Of course, sprayparks also are wildly popular at aquatics facilities.

Now there are more than a dozen manufacturers of aquatic spraypark equipment, according to Rich Young, general manager of Aquatic Commercial Industries in Saratoga, Calif. Design concepts have borrowed from traditional playgrounds, fountains and the old backyard slip-n-slides, lawn sprinklers and water gun fights.

Jim Cox, president/CEO of Raindrop Products, LLC, says sprayparks originated in the 1980s. Early designs included elements such as pipe sprayers and the mushroom top features, which were essentially ?the lopped-off end of a fiberglass tank,? Cox says. Often these elements were placed in aquatic settings. According to Cox and his team, some of the first sprayparks were in Providence, R.I., and Indianapolis.

Modern sprayparks are much more elaborate than those early ones. They?re often larger as well, some spanning several thousand square feet. Creative theming and interactive elements, including tipping buckets, showers and water cannons, have become industry standards, says Sean Barrett, director of municipal sales at SCS Interactive in Denver. He adds that one of the advantages of sprayparks is that they have allowed places that could not afford the liability and staffing costs associated with traditional pools to offer aquatic fun.

This, along with the fact that many sprayparks are run free of charge, has provided a wider population with access to aquatic recreation. In turn, it has sparked greater interest in more traditional aquatic venues.