Mansfield – A youngster splashes through the water in Hawaiian Falls’ new Turtle Bay.
“I’m a dinosaur!” he roars, followed closely by his two “dinosaur” buddies.
The little boys roll and growl in the shallow water while their mom stands ankle deep nearby holding their little brother.
And that’s just what David Alvey was hoping to see.
“Something like this is golden for these kids,” said Alvey, a spokesman for the Mansfield water park. “In their minds, they are doing the same thing as the big kids.”
Hawaiian Falls’ 16 acres are loaded with water slides, chutes, misters, a lazy river and a massive wave pool. There’s even a playground with a giant bucket that dumps and drenches everyone in the area.
But that can seem a little overwhelming for some of the park’s smallest visitors.
“We did a survey and they said they wanted more for little kids,” Alvey said.
The new $250,000 Turtle Bay feature opened in mid-June, replacing Splash Water Reef, which had a water obstacle course, slides and misters, Alvey said. The new feature has a chute slide and double body slide topped by a bucket that intermittently dumps water on the kids in the area. But instead of 1,000 gallons of water, this bucket has a toddler-friendly 60 gallons. There’s also a couple of big turtles with slides. And all the slides are in the water.
The pool starts with zero entry and goes up to 3 feet, so smaller kids have no trouble gauging just how deep they want to go.
Wall separates the shallow end from the deeper end
A barrier wall separates the toddler area from the floating obstacle course where bigger kids can climb on a hanging net or make their way across a string of life preservers. The older kid side of Turtle Bay ranges from 3 ½ feet to 4 feet deep, perfect for parents who want to sit in the water and keep an eye on their kids.
“Oddly enough, it’s the wall that made the most difference,” Alvey said. “We put in the retaining wall to create two pools instead of one.”
The wall gives parents some peace of mind that their youngsters won’t wander into deeper water, and there’s lifeguards making sure everyone is safe, too.
Lindsey Dalley of Mansfield says she comes three to four times a week with her 4-year-old daughter and 2-year-old son.
“I love the new improvements,” Dalley said as she sat in the shallow area and watched her kids play. “We switch between here and the bigger one. If I have help, she likes to do all the big slides, but I can’t do that with him.”
Gives toddlers feeling of independence
Kimberly Engebretson of Midlothian was trailing her 4-year-old daughter through the shallow end while her 12-year-old son handled the big rides by himself.
“She loves it,” Engebretson said of her daughter. “She likes the slides and that she’s kind of independent and she can do it on her own.”
The new feature has won over parents and kids, said Justin La Fond, park director. The area is the first to fill up each morning, he said. The park is planning to add another area for kids and families in 2021, La Fond said.
Hawaiian Falls is rebounding after opening a week late, due to the COVID-19 quarantine.
“When we first opened at 25 percent, it was challenging,” Alvey said. “Then we opened at 50 percent. We haven’t had to turn anyone away. There’s plenty of room to social distance.”
Mansfield’s Hawaiian Falls is at 490 Heritage Parkway South. Admission is $59.99 for a season pass, $19.99 for people 48 inches tall or smaller for a one-day pass, $26.99 for 48 inches tall and up for one day and $15 for a cooler pass.
The park is open 10:30-6 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 10:30 a.m.- 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 10:30-7 p.m. Sundays. Go to hfalls.com for more information.