Common Ground: Summer ends with a splash

My family bypassed this summer’s water park crowds, speed slides, extreme rides and wave pools for something much more relaxing and off the beaten path.

In our quest to find a kid-friendly park in a quiet area, a cousin coaxed us into taking a last-minute before back-to-school day trip to an 80-acre, freshwater lake and aqua park stocked with fish.

I had a hard time believing our cousin’s claim, until we drove deep into Franklinton where the budget-friendly park lies, backed up against hundreds of majestic pines and a lot of fluffy, white sand.

This gem of a park in Washington Parish is so preserved and isolated that it does not show up on a GPS system. To get there, we followed a paper map and some directions we found on the park’s website.

Upon arriving, we set up our picnic baskets, ice cooler, rented a huge beach umbrella and spent a long afternoon splashing in the lake, jumping on water trampolines, slides and kayaking.

But before our children could enter, the park’s owner, Tom D’Luca, greeted us and briefed our children on his safety rules. “Our safety record is perfect. We’ve never had a drowning,” he told us.

“My kind of waterpark,” I replied. My cousin nodded as her 4-year-old son plunged from an aqua slide into the lake and shouted, “I’m not scared of anything.”

When D’Luca saw my son, who is 9, leaping from the wrong side of the water slide, he told him: “I’m going to give you one warning and after that you’ll have to sit in the sand for the rest of the day.”

Fish sightings seemed to elicit the most reaction from the children. My 7-year-old daughter screamed after she felt several fish swim past her feet. “Mommy, why are there fish in the water?” she asked me.

“This is a lake and not a pool,” I reminded her.

Meanwhile, as I floated on my back in a warm spot along the lake — temperatures in the water varied from warm to cool — I thought about the millions of people who might be spending the day at cramped water parks, probably thinking they were in the best place.

Of course, I could be wrong. In 2012, about 85 million people visited water parks in North America, and in 2013, some 11 million people visited the top ten U.S. water parks, which included Disney’s Typhoon Lagoon.

I guess it’s not hard to understand why folks flock to pricey water parks. I will admit, the white sandy beach my family visited could not provide the surfing, extreme water slides nor the restaurants that the commercial parks offer.

However, it gave us a huge dose of fresh air, a lot of open space and time for our children to explore and understand the beauty of a freshwater lake.

Chante Dionne Warren is a freelance writer. She can be reached at chantewriter@hotmail.com.