Noe Valley Voice April 2012

Welcome to Dolores Park Playground

By Corrie M. Anders

Sounds of joy will soon fill the Helen Diller Playground at Dolores Park, a palm-filled oasis of fun for kids of all sizes. Top attractions at the completely remodeled playground off 20th Street are a steep slide, “timber towers,” and a suspension bridge. Photo by Beverly Tharp

Okay, kids. The new Dolores Park Playground is open for business. And what a treat it is.

There’s a granite boulder to climb, and a boat to ride. There’s sand to pan and a really long slide. And get this, there’s a bridge leading to a big mound that looks like a pyramid!

The play area, on the southern edge of Dolores Park, reopened March 31 after a $3.2 million renovation. Throngs of children from Noe Valley, the Castro, and the Mission planned to join Mayor Ed Lee, Supervisor Scott Wiener, and other park fans in cutting the ribbons at the opening day celebration.

“I’m over the moon,” said Nancy Gonzalez Madynski, chair of Friends of Dolores Park Playground, a residents group that helped raise funds for play structures. “It’s above and beyond exciting.”

The new facility, designed by Koch Landscape Architecture, was tailored for toddlers to 12-year-olds, but everyone is welcome to play. There are old favorites like swing sets, seesaws, and tube mazes.

But the playground also has several unique features, including an ADA-accessible suspension bridge that offers a view of the city skyline, a shipwrecked boat, a Spiderman-like climbing net, and a set of “timber towers.”

“The natural granite climbing structure and also the wood climbing structure are going to be the most exciting, different kind of play experience for [kids],” said Madynski.

Then there’s the 36-foot “Super Slide” built into the hill on the 20th Street side of the park (at Dolores Street). The bottom of the slide is 30 feet below the top—about three stories high, moms and dads.

But not to worry. The slide offers a gentle, curvy ride down, and Madynski said the structure is well constructed to meet “today’s safety standards.”

The new playground is named in honor of philanthropist Helen Diller, who donated $1.5 million to the project via the Mercer Fund of the San Francisco Jewish Community Federation.

The playground renovation is the first phase of a larger makeover of the park, scheduled to start in the fall. When completed, Dolores Park will have new bathrooms, refurbished soccer fields and tennis courts, and a new drainage and irrigation system.