5-year-old Lucas wants a splash pad in SLO, so he made a video to convince the mayor
When Sarah Reinhart and her 5-year-old son, Lucas, checked out a library book called “Water in the Park,” neither could have foreseen it would jump-start an interest in civic engagement.
But that book, which piqued Lucas’ interest in getting a splash pad for San Luis Obispo, ultimately led to a Change.org petition and a meeting with Mayor Heidi Harmon. (A splash pad is an outdoor water play area, often complete with spouts that shoot water up from the ground.)
After Sarah and Lucas read “Water in the Park,” Lucas kept asking questions about splash pads in other cities they visited, including Portland and, closer to home, Atascadero. Lucas ultimately asked how he could get a splash pad in San Luis Obispo.
“I said, ‘You could maybe write a letter about it to the mayor,’ ” Reinhart remembered. “He does not like writing, he’s in kindergarten. He said, ‘How about a video, can we do a video?’ I said, ‘OK, sure.’ ”
Reinhart posted the video on Facebook, privately, expecting to share it with her friends. Then it grew.
Harmon commented on the video and invited Lucas to meet with her.
Kavi Holmes, 11, the son of one of Reinhart’s friends, made a Change.org petition outlining the reasons a splash pad would be good for the city. Among other benefits, the petition said it would give families a place to cool off and give kids the chance to meet up with friends. The petition wound up with more than 100 signatures.
“It was a very unplanned grassroots effort,” Reinhart said.
In mid-April, Lucas, Lucas’ little sister, Ruby, and Kavi met Harmon in her office, where the mayor explained how local government works and shared her concerns about water usage during the drought. Harmon also gave the children a tour of the council chambers and explained how to make a public comment at a council meeting.
“He could not wait to talk to her,” Reinhart said, adding that Lucas told her he wanted to wear a “Peter Rabbit jacket” to the meeting. (She then realized he meant he wanted to wear a suit.)
“I kept telling him, ‘You don’t have to do this.’ And he said, ‘I can be brave, Mom.’ ”
Lucas was so excited that he told his whole class at Pacheco Elementary School about the project. The class, with the help of their teacher, wrote a letter to the mayor explaining why they thought a splash pad was a good idea. Lucas brought the letter, along with several others from friends, to the mayor.
“He felt validated that other people thought he had a good idea,” Reinhart said.
One of the proposals for an expanded Mission Plaza does include a splash pad. Reinhart said she and Lucas will try to go to the next City Council meeting about the project.