The Friends of Dolores Park Playground met Wednesday night at Dolores Park Cafe to discuss the new playground’s progress, and ended up getting a surprise personal tour from the playground’s construction manager.
“Did you see? There’s a big xylophone over there!” said volunteer Sarah Bashford, one of a group of around 15 who got a sneak peek at the roughly $3.5 million overhaul.
In addition to the staples — swings, a sandbox, a slide — the playground hosts some unusual twists.
For one, the slide is 45 feet long and almost 30 feet high, making it about three stories tall.
There’s also a large bridge, both rope and granite slabs for climbing (and an area that combines them), a “shipwrecked” boat and a set of huge chimes that juts out of the ground.
The Friends of Dolores Park Playground held the tour as a gift to current volunteers for their support, and also to entice newcomers.
Chris Dale came when his wife, Bashford, was invited. Dale can’t wait to bring their two kids to the park when it opens.
“This is going to blow their minds,” he said.
Bashford, who came to San Francisco from the UK 10 years ago, remarked at how openly and democratically the Friends operate, as does as the park itself. She called Dolores “one of the least gated parks,” compared to others in both London and the United States.
Tim Wirth, who is on the Friends’ steering committee, said the five-year effort initially had difficulty making its specific goal clear to outsiders. “We’re not anti-dogs or anything. We just needed to fix the playground,” he said.
Wirth said that because Dolores Park draws people from all over the city, “It’s a fascinating laboratory of urban living.”
Jim Koulias, a Friends steering committee member and web designer, said that when the playground reopens, the Friends will be able to resume their free educational events for children, which feature live music, art and theater.
Joe Blanco, the playground’s construction manager, noted that the entire playground is ADA-accessible. He traced with his finger the long, winding sidewalk that runs the playground’s perimeter, noting that skateboarders will probably find it irresistible.
“You’re just gonna be able to fly down this thing,” he said.
The concrete curbs alongside the park’s planters were designed specifically with skaters in mind. The wall and edges of the planters are grooved to resemble wood paneling, imbuing them with “an organic feel” while making them impossible to grind on, Blanco said.
Around 15 people showed up at the meeting and then got the night tour — a good turnout, according to Friends chair Nancy Madynski. She said Friends is trying to grow its volunteer numbers, which are currently around 40. At present their main focus is planning for the opening party, which will feature food, face painting and live music.