- CALENDAR. Most fountains are turned off, basically, from October to April. There are a small handful that operate year-round. You will have better luck hunting fountains in the spring and summer than fall and winter. The off-season is also a popular time for the owners to perform maintenance and repairs which may result in features, such as sculptures, being removed temporarily.
- HOURS OF OPERATION. Just because a fountain is running today does not necessarily mean it will be running tomorrow. Many of the privately-owned fountains only run while that business is open. Some fountains may only run during the week but not the weekend. Some get turned off during bad weather. Some may get turned off for any number of other reasons including routine maintenance and costs. It can be frustrating if you go to an area you made a special trip to visit and you find the fountain is off. Just know it happens and be prepared to visit again. You can always contact the owner (see bottom of page) if you want to know when a fountain will be on or why it is off.
- KNOW WHERE YOU ARE GOING. You may be dealing with bad neighborhoods, the winding roads of subdivisions and suburbs, the gridlock of big city traffic, etc. In other words, have some idea of where you are going and how to get there. GPS navigation on your smartphone or in your car is very helpful. Driving or walking blindly may not always get you where you are going and you could end up in a location or situation you do not want to be in.
- BE AWARE OF YOUR SURROUNDINGS. Some of the fountains are located in bad or questionable neighborhoods. Bring a buddy along, if you can. Park as close as you can. Be aware of your surroundings when you are at the fountain. If you do not feel comfortable being there, then leave and return at another time. Night visits to some locations should definitely be reconsidered. Just be safe.
- BE PREPARED TO WALK. Very rarely will you find dedicated parking next to a fountain. Sometimes you will need to find a nearby parking lot, a side street or some other place to park and then trek back to the fountain. In areas like Country Club Plaza or Downtown Kansas City where there are multiple fountains, you will make better use of your time by finding a place to park, wherever it is, and then walking to the each of the fountains you want to visit.
- PUBLIC FOUNTAINS. The fountains located in public locations are just that – public. You are going to have people, children and pets to deal with at the fountains. You may be next to a street and will have cars driving past or parked nearby. If you want to minimize or not have people in your photos, pick a different time of day to go. To eliminate cars and traffic, photograph from angles that are away from traffic or that hide traffic.
- PRIVATE FOUNTAINS. Some fountains are actually located on privately-owned locations, whether it’s a subdivision entrance, a local business or something else. Some may not want you on their property at all. Some of these businesses may have security guards or other employees that will get, at the very least, curious about someone snooping around their property. Please cooperate with these people and businesses. If they ask what you are doing, tell them. If they ask you to leave, then leave.
- PERMISSION. Some privately-owned locations are more than happy to allow you access to their fountains and take photographs as long as you make arrangements beforehand. Some public locations do not allow “professional” photographic sessions on their grounds without permission or at all. Kauffman Gardens falls into the “at all” category, for example. Make that phone call or send that email and get the permission before you go.
- LANDSCAPING AND SCULPTURES. A lot of fountains have landscaping and sculptural elements in and around them. The flowers and plants were placed there by the owner to help beautify the area. Do not trample flowers, move rocks, etc. just to get that “perfect” picture. Do not climb on or disturb the sculptures. They may be more fragile than they look and easily marred and scarred. Repairs may be difficult, time consuming and expensive. Even worse, they could be irreplaceable and if too much damage is done they will have to be removed never to be seen again by the public.
- CLIMBING OR ENTERING FOUNTAINS. Unless the fountain has been specifically designed to allow it, do not climb on or enter the fountains. Fountains, obviously, have water so climbing or walking on what may be a wet, slick ledge or a slick, tile floor is never a good idea. I have seen people throw things, spit and let their dog play in a fountain. I don’t even want to imagine what people have done that I haven’t seen. Also, don’t forget to consider whatever Mother Nature may add as well. Many fountains also may be recirculating much, if not all, of that water and the filtering systems of some fountains are not equipped to handle that kind of pollution. So, while that pool of water looks clean and clear, I would really think twice about entering it. Not to mention that climbing or entering a fountain may be illegal and you could face legal repercussions. Also, depending on the wind, areas around but outside the fountain may be wet so exercise caution there as well.
- GEESE. Geese around a fountain is a common sight. Geese are gross, in my humble opinion, so watch your step while walking around. Geese can be anywhere from annoying to aggressive, so watch yourself around them. Definitely do not feed any geese that may be present. It gives them incentive to stay, may make them more aggressive, and makes it tougher to get rid of them should the need arise. Also, by feeding geese, it encourages more to show up which then fouls the area even more.
If you have specific questions about the operation, or non-operation, of a specific fountain, the best source is the owner of that fountain:
For public fountains – Contact the city or county that owns/maintains the fountain. Try the Parks & Recreation department first. Some municipalities are quick to answer your question, within a matter of days, while some may not get back to you at all. Sometimes, it is a matter of finding the right person to contact.
For private fountains – Contact the business or entity that owns/maintains the fountain. This can be difficult to do at times as it may be difficult to determine who exactly owns or maintains the fountain. The owner of the building may not be any of the businesses in the building and the businesses in the building may not know anything about the fountain. Subdivisions can be particularly difficult as it is very tough to find out who owns or maintains fountains and artwork in the subdivisions. It could be the developer, a home owners’ association, a realtor or some one else entirely. If you do find out or get a strong idea, the contact information may be difficult to find as well.