NEW BEDFORD — Mayor Jon Mitchell is denying claims that he pressured the Conservation Commission into expediting the process of opening up the new inflatable water park at East Beach.

The claims were levied by Conservation Commission Chairman Craig Dixon during a Tuesday public meeting of the Conservation Commission at the Brooklawn Park Senior Center.

Dixon claimed he was “under pressure” from the Mayor's Office to get the water park opened. He claims the Mayor’s Office asked him on Friday afternoon to allow the water park to open with Mayor Mitchell’s unilateral approval.

“I saw the headline this morning. It’s a little bit of a head scratcher. I like Craig and consider him to be a friend. I haven’t spoken to Craig Dixon in at least a year, particularly about this sort of thing.  So, I don’t know what he’s talking about. So people understand, we’re not in the business of putting a squeeze on board members,” Mayor Mitchell said on the Barry Richard Show Wednesday.

“Several months ago it was presented to me and I said, ‘Hey, great idea. If it means that kids in our city get to have some fun in the summertime, safely, then great, let’s do it. Honestly, that’s how it’s worked out.”

Prior to the Tuesday meeting, Chairman Dixon stated to the public that the Commission would continue its meeting for two weeks, leading many to believe the water park wouldn't open until a full review had been completed.

An issue seemed to have arose Park Board had originally moved ahead with the decision to install the water park, bypassing the Conservation Commission, City Council and other governing bodies related to New Bedford’s waterways.

The Park Board failed to notify the Conservation Commission about the partnership with Altitude H2O – the parent company of the inflatable water park - to open in the ocean waters just off the city's beach.  Park Board Director Mary Rapoza pleaded ignorance of the process and attended Conservation Committee meeting earlier this month to further discuss the situation.

On the Chris McCarthy Show on Monday, Park Board Chairman Peter Boswell said the board came up with the idea during executive session a few months ago. He says the Park Board was not required to seek permission for the water park from the Conservation Commission after receiving approval from state and federal agencies.

The water park held a “soft opening” to the public on Friday.

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