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The $4.5 million splash pad at Martin Luther King Park opened this summer to rave reviews.

But with summer over, residents now see a bare concrete basin – not the promised reflecting pool.

“We have failed to see the true beauty of the water feature,” said Samuel A. Herbert of the Coalition to Save Martin Luther King Park.

Herbert praised city officials when the East Side splash pad opened this summer but had complained about construction delays. He now is raising concerns about the lack of water for a reflecting pool.

City officials expect the basin to be filled with water, and for the lights and powerful fountains to be turned on, by late October or early November.

The timing is consistent with the city’s original plan, and much of the delay is unique to the water feature’s first year, said Public Works Commissioner Steven J. Stepniak.

Next year, the down time between the splash pad and the reflecting pool – after the splash pad fountains go dormant and before water fills the reflecting pool – will be much shorter, Stepniak said.

Tasks must be completed during the transition, most significantly replacing the more gentle fountain heads used for the splash pad with powerful fountain heads suitable for the reflecting pool. But 75 percent of the work the city is doing now is only done in the first year, he said.

The city has been working cautiously with its contractor, Man O’Trees, and Stepniak said the city wants to make sure that all of the work has been done properly. “We’re closing the contract out,” he said.

Masten Council Member Demone A. Smith, whose district includes the park, said the city held off on filling the basin with water so park visitors would not be tempted to use it as a wading pool.

The recent stretch of unseasonably warm weather would have made the pool tempting for someone looking to cool off, Smith said.

Stepniak called Smith’s concern valid, but he said the delay had to do with construction issues related to the water feature’s first year of operation.

In addition to its use as a splash pad in the summer and a reflecting pool in the fall and spring, the MLK basin can also be used as an ice skating rink in the winter, if temperatures drop enough.

email: jterreri@buffnews.com