Photograph of Juan Encarnaction at Neptune Island in Hartsville. 2018.

Juan Encarnaction at Neptune Island in Hartsville. 2018.

For those of you who haven’t met me at Neptune Island Waterpark, my name is Juan Encarnacion and I’m the General Manager. I came to Hartsville in March 2018 from Las Vegas, where I also worked in waterpark management. My girlfriend and I have loved being official residents of our city and really enjoy living in Hartsville and getting to know you all.

Opening Neptune Island has been one of the most fun experiences I’ve ever had. We were thrilled to welcome our 20,000th guest on July 9, and have sold over 4,000 season passes. Those numbers continue to climb as we welcome guests from Bennettsville, Columbia, Spartanburg, and even as far away as Fayetteville, N.C. While fun, it has been one of my most challenging experiences as well. Like opening any new business, no amount of planning can prepare you for every issue. We’ve been working overtime, long into the night most nights, to make sure that even when we do find an issue, we resolve it quickly. Our guests’ safety and experience at Neptune Island are our priorities, so no matter how crazy things may be behind the curtain, we hope you haven’t noticed.

Eric Tucker, who moved here from a position at a waterpark in New York with his wife Stephanie, is our Operations Manager. He describes Neptune Island’s safety programs, “We have about 65 lifeguards on our crew, all certified by industry leaders Ellis & Associates. Most of them are brand new lifeguards, having gone through an intense 24 hours of weekend training. We all maintain our certification with four hours of in-service continuing training each month. All of our supervisors are certified instructors, as well. At any given time, we have about 21 lifeguards and supervisors on duty keeping watch over our guests. While we, fortunately, haven’t had any significant injuries, we usually have 2-3 saves each day, which can mean anything from someone falling to going too deep into the wave pool.

“Neptune Island’s lifeguards practice something called “scanning” that you may have noticed. They constantly move their eyes from the 10 o’clock to 2 o’clock positions to keep watch over their area. Guests have commented that the lifeguards seem obsessed or look silly, but, to me, they are doing exactly what they should, and I’m proud of them for it. They are trained to recognize early signs of distress and act quickly to make a rescue before something serious happens. While all of our lifeguards are certified to administer CPR, they are also trained to prevent situations where they need it. We log every incident, including each band-aid, so that we can see trends and catch problem areas early.

“I also oversee the operations side of our pools, ensuring the safety, quality, and cleanliness of the water and facility. We have several Certified Pool Operators on our crew, including myself and Juan, and usually, two of us are on duty at any given time. We are trained to monitor, test, and understand our water quality and filtration systems. We sample the water once an hour to analyze it, and everyone on our crew keeps an eye on the pools and will grab a skimmer to clean up debris when we see it. The spirit of teamwork runs through everything we do.”

Eric and his team have been great to work with and I’m proud of our safety record. We are continually refining our procedures and retraining our lifeguards on, for instance, the script they deliver to guests at the top of the water slide tower, and they are always up to the challenge.

We’re just as serious about our guests’ experience as we are about their safety. We want Neptune Island to look its best for every guest every day. Our maintenance crew works from noon until after dark every day and we inspect our bathrooms every 20 minutes. We’ve added 35 more umbrellas to the park since it opened to create more shade and are always looking for other ways to improve. Not every guest has a perfect experience, though. We’ve had visitors come to us with comments about the height requirements for our water slides. Sometimes it can be difficult for us to explain that the rules for our slides and other attractions aren’t arbitrary, but are prescribed by the designers and manufacturers of the slides and are the result of extensive testing. While not everyone loves our rules, safety is a non-negotiable priority and we hope that all of our guests can come to appreciate that.

While working at Neptune Island is a tough job and Hartsville’s summer heat is relentless, I love what we are doing for this community. For more than 75% of our over 130 crew members, this is their first job. It’s a hard first job, but our crew members are learning skills that most first jobs don’t offer like payroll, scheduling, training, hiring, and even how to coach and counsel their fellow crew members. These are invaluable skills and experiences that we know will set them up to be successful leaders.

I hope that you have enjoyed your visits to Neptune Island and, if you haven’t been yet, I look forward to meeting you soon. We all want you to love this waterpark as much as we do, but if something’s not right, please let us know. We work tirelessly to improve.

If you see me running around in the background next time you’re here and there’s stress in my eyes, maybe now you’ll understand why. It’s all just part of the job, and it’s worth it.

See you soon,

Juan Encarnacion
General Manager, Neptune Island

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