Water World

Lifeguard Garrett Woodham keeps an eye on swimmers at Water World in Dothan in 2014.

Hailed as “Dothan’s most exciting beach,” Water World at Westgate Park has been a popular spot for residents and visitors alike for almost 40 years.

Now Dothan officials are weighing their options about the park, considering whether to sink money into upgrades and renovations and to what extent.

A majority of respondents to an informal poll on Mayor Mark Saliba’s Facebook page said they’d like to see the city spend some money on improving the water park. While social media polls lack scientific framework, this one reflects wisdom of the masses: Water World is definitely worth keeping afloat.

However, Dothan officials should give serious thought to what they want the new and improved water park to be. Is it to be a benefit to the residents of Dothan, who aren’t wrong to expect affordable access to a facility built and operated with public funds? Or is it to be a “destination” for families within several hundred miles, like an attraction in Valdosta, Georgia, that has been mentioned in some of the discussions of Water World’s future.

It’s not necessary that a public entity such as Water World be profitable, or even break even expense-wise. It’s not absolutely vital, like fire and police protection, but it’s a service just the same.

However, it’s possible that, with the proper fee structure, the water park could be both – residents could be subject to a fee structure that reflects their “ownership” as taxpayers, while non-residents would follow a fee schedule in line with “destination” parks of similar size.

Whatever city officials decide, their wisest move is to invest what’s necessary to keep the park viable for years to come, if for no other reason than to protect the public’s 40-year investment.

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