On those few warm days in B.C. summers, Rick Halas likes to enjoy Memorial Peace Park and the two little fountains that bubble along 224th Street in downtown Maple Ridge.
So why is the water running anti-freeze blue?
Is the coloration meant to scare children away from indulging in the illicit dipping-of-toes on a sweltering day, Halas asks.
Is the colour to deter the odd hobo or resident from rinsing his hands?
Halas says he’s never seen such a technique used in other cities.
“In the tiny squares and great plazas of France and Italy where tourists and locals pause to refresh, has anyone ever seen blue, repellent water?” In Spain’s Alhambra Palace, visited by millions of tourists, there is no blue water, he adds.
Halas contacted the District of Maple Ridge and was told by parks and recreation general manager Kelly Swift that there have been “a number of instances where people use them as a water-play feature and even for drinking water.”
Swift explained to Halas that the chlorine cannot be maintained at a level that would allow public use.
So to get the message out that people should stay out of the water, blue dye was added in addition to signs warning people to stay out of the fountains.
That seems to have worked, Swift said.
Coloured water isn’t as appealing as clear water, but it’s been “effective in resolving unsafe use of the fountains which allows us to retain these features in the park.”
Halas, though, is aghast. He just wants the water in Maple Ridge’s little fountains to run normally so everyone can enjoy them.
While travelling throughout Europe and the U.S., he’s seen dozens of small towns with fountains “and beautiful, clear running water,” in which people occasionally dip their feet.
“What I was trying to illustrate is, throughout the world we have municipalities who don’t get bent out of shape over people dipping their toes in water.
“If somebody puts their feet into it, so what?”
He says the coloured water just discourages people from enjoying the fountain and the loss of public value from the feature overrides the safety benefits.
“I just feel so cheated as a citizen.”