BARSTOW - The parking lot is empty and the water slides are being dismantled, but an older crowd may return to the grounds of the former Discovery Water Park.

Though the application has not been fully approved by the county, efforts to turn the site near Newberry Springs into a 1,400 unit gated community for seniors over 50 are moving forward, according to Spike Lynch, a consultant for KHL Development, the current applicant for the project.

He said that the company plans to keep the park's kiddy slides and the Lazy River ride for the exclusive use of the complex's residents. Lake Delores a man-made lake in the center of the site will also remain. Multiple parks, a driving range and putting green may also be included in the project. The lake's island will be connected to the mainland with a bridge and be outfitted with tennis courts, Lynch said.

He said that the plans are still being reviewed, but the first group of up to 30 homes could be built as early as 2009. The park closed in 2003. All 10 phases of the project are planned to be built over the next five or six years. Lynch said the project had been held up by concerns about the impact of water runoff on surrounding lands.

"There were some drainage issues, but they are currently being resolved," he said.

On Tuesday, a crane operator dismantled parts of the park's several large water slides. Lynch said in the coming months contractors will remove the large hill under the slides in order to prepare for the homes. The slides will be sent to Vancouver, Canada, and used in another water park, he said.

Lynch said that the downturn in the housing market may affect demand for new homes, but he expects the project to be popular among seniors.

"Our market is the baby boomers and there's no shortage of them," Lynch said. "We will have affordable housing on a new project, unlike other projects in Southern California."

He said although prices have not been set yet, the company hopes to keep them under $200,000. He said he doesn't expect the development to dramatically alter life in Newberry Springs.

"Because it's self-sustained, with food, entertainment and everything seniors need, they won't have to impact the community a lot," he said. "We won't have to find jobs for 1,400 people."

He said he hopes locals will approve of the plans and hasn't heard much opposition to the project. He said he may make a presentation further detailing the company's plans at an upcoming meeting of the Newberry Springs Property Owners Association.

"The people of Newberry have not opposed this project," he said.

Despite Lynch's optimism, not all Newberry Springs residents welcome the project.

James Hood, who lives on the east side of the park, said he worries about the impact of the project's sewer system passing into his well.

"It's way too many houses for that small of an area," he said.

He said the county had turned down previous projects for not having adequate sewer treatment facilities and worries the Newberry Springs Volunteer Fire Department won't be able to handle the new homes.

"Any time, you have the development of a new community, the people who were there before can't afford the increase in taxes," he said.

He said that although his property values may rise, he worries about the change 1,400 new neighbors could have on his town.

Contact the writer: (760) 256-4126 or jason_smith@link.freedom.com