On a 34 Celsius summer’s day in January, our entire extended family travelled 55 kilometres from inner Brisbane to a birthday party. Outside. In a park. In a treeless field. In Flagstone. 

Over the next 30 years, Flagstone is expected to grow into a mini city of 120,000-150,000 people on the South Western fringe of Brisbane. But until the trees grow, it is the definition of an urban heat island – home to about 6000 people so far and growing by about 20 families a month, in large houses on small blocks with young trees that barely peep above the roofline. 

What made all this bearable was a phenomenally good water play area dominated by a 10 metre high, 10 metre diameter, mushroom shaped water feature, with a suspiciously familiar shape. 

“It’s modelled on the old Fisher-Price treehouse that you probably played with as a child,” says Shane Vardy, aquatics and custom projects business development manager at Playscape Creations, the water park’s creator. 

Michael Stone, general manager, Peet Limited, Queensland, Flasgtone’s developer, says, “The water play park was always intended to be a central part of the Flagstone development. Its design allows for people to move in and out of water features, often by triggering the water flow themselves. Water is at zero depth making it safe for all ages and not requiring life savers. This increases its appeal to local residents and the wider community – which will ultimately result in increased use.”

Zero-depth waterparks as a pool alternative

Zero-depth water play areas are a growing trend in oppressively hot areas like Queensland. 

For park users, the lack of deep water allows one adult to supervise a horde of children. 

For park operators – like Logan City Council in this case – zero depth parks make sense too. A community pool requires lifeguards to monitor pools and slides. Even a water slide requires a lifeguard at the top to regulate the flow of users (let’s face it – they’re not all children) down the slide, and the run-off area still has water at sufficient depth to cause drowning, even if regulations don’t require a lifeguard. 

In a suburb where many of the blocks don’t have the space for a pool, a water play feature like this is important. Unlike a community pool, users can switch the water on themselves – it switches off after 15 minutes if nobody presses one of the “press for water” buttons in the park. And the council can change the operating hours of the water play park by tweaking the times on a control panel in the pump room. 

Flagstone water play park’s design

Flagstone water play park comprises the main “tree” – a two level structure with two curved staircases to the upper level and a geodesic dome on the top to carry the sun-shading leaves, and all the water pipework required for two 300 litre “dumper buckets” of water and a rain curtain that cascades down from the canopy to the ground below. When the 300 litre buckets dump onto the upper level of the tree, water cascades through the entire structure, sending kids and parents alike, running and squealing with delight. 

Two smaller trees provide gentler spaces for young children and a series of waterspouts and water “guns” mounted on poles add interest and variety. The drainage channels fill with water and create a new water feature, about 5 cm deep, that children like to lie down in and splash about. 

The mechanics behind the water

Sophisticated pump and filtration infrastructure keeps the park hygienic and fun. Water drains off the park into a 23,000 litre balance tank. From there it passes through a hair and lint filter, water chemistry sensors, a series of pumps, valves and activated solenoids, one of four massive, 10-micron, sand filters, automated dosing systems for acid and chlorine that respond to the sensors at the start of the process and into the 23,000 litre filtration tank. 

A 10,000 litre backwash tank ensures that backwashing the four massive sand filters doesn’t overwhelm the sewage system, allowing backwash water to trickle into the sewer at around two to three litres per minute. The system is backwashed every day or two in peak periods and twice-a-week in off-peak times. 

The variable flow delivery pumps respond to pressure sensors to ensure they operate for the minimum time and speed required to operate the water features to save electricity and reduce wear. 

The entire system, including the lighting, is controlled by a programmable logic controller (PLC) that can set the cycling of different water features, operating hours of the water play area, allows for isolation and testing of individual pumps, and responds to the “Press for water” buttons. 

Sustainability materials

The Flagstone water play park is designed for longevity. All exposed metal is stainless steel. Recycled Future Wood is used for all timbers, industrial composite decking is used on the upper level of the treehouse and the play area is Tuff Coat, a non-slip, water-based, waterproof, rubberised polymer. 

Playful design

Shane Vardy says that zero depth parks provide great scope for playful design. While Flagstone was inspired by the Fisher-Price tree, a park that Playscape is currently building in Maryborough is inspired by Mary Poppins, whose creator was born there. 

“The dump bucket is shaped like an old sugar silo and the diffuser underneath is shaped like a teaspoon, so it dumps teaspoons of sugar!”

Flagstone Regional Park

The water park is in Flagstone Regional Park, a key part of PEET’s development. Michael Stone says, “Flagstone’s $12 million Regional Rec Park has been developed over 10 hectares offering entertainment for all ages. It features one of the biggest adventure playgrounds in South East Queensland, the popular interactive Water Play Park, the state’s first waterplay facilities for dogs, and a competition standard urban skate park.”

“In the past, families have travelled a long way to find a great park, but through developments like Flagstone, the needs and wants of residents are being met right in their own backyard.

Peet has invested more than $20 million to create dozens of beautiful parks at Flagstone, each offering a different experience based on community themes of adventure, discovery, and opportunity.”

Flagstone “Future City”

When complete, the Future City as PEET has branded Flagstone, will include 44,000sqm of retail space and 58,000sqm of office space. An interstate rail service is proposed to run through the middle. The development aims to become a commercial centre of the local region – Jimboomba is 10 minutes away – and include hospitality, light manufacturing, educational, research and employment services, complemented by shopping, dining and entertainment.