SOUTH HAVEN — Contractors are expected to break ground this fall for a new splash pad near South Beach.

“When there are tourists and they don’t have a life jacket, they should be able to play at the South Haven splash pad,” said Heather Spencer, who was in attendance at Monday’s South Haven City Council meeting to hear a contract had been awarded for construction of the project.

The project should be completed by next Memorial Day, officials said.

Compton Inc. of South Haven got the nod from city council members to build the park after submitting the low bid of $612,760. Three contractors bid on the project, with estimates ranging from $612,760 to $634,800.

“It’s a competitive bid and a local company got the project,” Mayor Pro Tem Clark Gruber commented.

Most of the cost for the project is coming from a state grant and donations from community groups. The city obtained a matching $300,000 grant from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources earlier this year, and has accumulated nearly $90,000 in local donations since then.

“We’ve received funding from the South Haven Community Foundation, American Twisting, South Haven Rotary Club, South Haven Visitors Bureau and Albemarle Corp., said City Manager Brian Dissette. “We’re at $86,700 as of this evening. That’s the real good news on the project and we’ll continue collecting donations.”

The city is also helping to pay for the project through several other funding sources, including beach parking fees, the Downtown Development Authority and the capital projects fund.

The city had originally estimated the splash pad would cost $568,500 to build, but several months ago, at the suggestion of the city planning commission, the pad’s site plan was revised to include safer pedestrian access to and from Water Street to the splash pad.

When completed the splash pad will resemble the Michigan Maritime Museum’s tall ship, Friends Good Will, and will accommodate approximately 100 people who can run under the nautical-designed fountains and other devices to cool off during hot days.

Elementary students in South Haven, who were polled earlier this year, overwhelmingly chose the ship design over another one that consisted mainly of decorative water fountains.

Splash pads are becoming more popular in shoreline communities along Lake Michigan, where rip currents and high waves can make swimming conditions dangerous.

“The intent of the project since its inception has been to create a safe place for children to have an alternative place to play instead of Lake Michigan, when hazardous conditions exist such as dangerous currents or elevated E.coli levels,” said Department of Public Works Director Bill Hunter.