South Haven “Friends Good Will” Splash Pad

South Haven, MI
Coastal & Waterfront, Hospitality & Recreation
City of South Haven
Project Details

The new splash pad, opened in July 2020 and located along the Black River and adjacent South Beach, was modeled after the Friends Good Will ship, a replica of a 19th century tall ship that sails the Black River on daily excursions led by the Michigan Maritime Museum. As a port city, South Haven has seen its share of ships, but none as special as the Friends Good Will. The original Friends Good Will had a storied history beginning life as a merchant ship moving goods around the Great Lakes. It was captured by the British in 1812, was armed, and became part of the British Navy until recaptured by Commodore Oliver Perry at the Battle of Lake Erie.

Designing for Inclusive, Safe Play

All agreed the splash pad should pay the Friends Good Will a fitting tribute: as a result, the design centers on a custom Elevations™ pirate ship structure, decked out in the same green and gold as its namesake. The two sections of the ship feature a number of dynamic water features, from the spray spouting from its bow to a rear deck onto which children can climb and direct water cannons over playmates below.

The splash pad project was about much more than creating a new attraction for residents and children to use. “First and foremost, this project was about safety,” stated City Manager Kate Hosier. “Given its location adjacent to South Beach, the splash pad provides a safe water based play option when lake conditions are dangerous. Our public safety department has been a big proponent of the project and the value it brings as a safer play option for residents and visitors alike.”

At ground level, a variety of spray elements from the Splashpad Ocean Sailing collection dot the wheelchair-accessible, zero-depth surface to cool off younger adventurers, while water cannons and dumping buckets entice older children into higher-energy social play. The Splashpad can accommodate up to 195 users, and the wide range of aquatic play features means there is something for everyone to safely enjoy, no matter their age or ability.

The playscape is ringed by a low wall that doubles as seating and anchors the amenity in the park environment. Shaded areas and a circle of picnic tables make the Friends Good Will Splashpad at Riverfront Park a wonderful addition to the city’s park system. Families can pack a lunch or enjoy snacks and refreshments from nearby businesses, and have fun in the sun without having to worry about the currents of Lake Michigan.

A Project with True Community Engagement

The design was chosen after an extensive public participation process that included the project team going into both Lincoln Elementary School and Maple Grove Elementary School to conduct design charrettes soliciting input from kids in the community. “It was very important to us that we gained input from the people who would be using this new splash pad,” stated South Haven Mayor Scott Smith. “Instead of managing this project with a top down approach, we decided to go right to the source and work with the community’s children on the design. Each area of the splash pad has play elements geared to children of different age ranges.”

The splash pad has been a true community project with input and support coming from virtually every corner of the community. “In addition to the great work the City Council and Parks Commission did leading this project to fruition, I want to extend a very special thank you to the Rotary Club of South Haven, the Greater South Haven Area Community Foundation, the South Haven/Van Buren Convention and Visitors Bureau, and the South Haven Downtown Development Authority who have been strong  advocates of this project and led the fundraising efforts to help pay for this new world class addition to our riverfront,” stated Mayor Smith.

Design & Development Partners

Abonmarche led the design efforts for the project and secured an almost $300,000 grant on behalf of the City to assist in covering a portion of the project’s cost. Construction for the project was over- seen by Compton Inc. of South Haven. Vortex Aquatic Structures, an industry leader in development of splash pads, provided assistance to both the design and construction teams.

In 2021, the Friends Good Will Splash Pad earned the American Public Works Association (APWA) Michigan Chapter Project of the Year award in the “Structure Less Than $1 Million” category.


  • Modeled after the iconic Friends Good Will tall ship
  • Comprehensive Public Input Process
  • Secured $300,000 in grant financing for the client
  • Sustainable Design Approach

More Information About Friends Good Will Splash Pad:

  • – South Haven – n.d.
  • – South West Michigan – n.d.
  • – Facebook – May 6, 2021
  • – Kzoo Kids – May 2, 2023
$650,000 Construction Cost
Our Approach

The City of South Haven incorporated multiple sustainable design features into this project including the use of native plantings, a water management system to minimize the amount of water requiring treatment and the use construction materials selected to ensure a long life cycle while minimizing potential environmental impacts.

The grade change between the existing road and the existing boardwalk the project was built in between was approximately 4’ over a relatively short distance.  The project team overcame this significant challenge and created a universally accessible amenity for persons of all abilities to fully enjoy.   A seat wall was used as both an amenity and a retaining wall on the street side of the splash pad to take up the grade differential while providing additional seating options. The project provides a safe recreational alternative to families when dangerous conditions exist on Lake Michigan ensuring that residents and visitors to South Haven have multiple safe recreational opportunities.


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