Conor Skelly, his two kids, and his sister Teresa at Mission Playground in the Mission. Photo by Clara-Sophia Daly.

The playground at Dolores Park was filled with parents and children Friday morning, enjoying the last few weeks of fun on the play structure before the Helen Diller Playground closes down for renovations in mid-June for three months.

“That’s going to be tough, because the summer!”  said Amy, a mother of three who was initially surprised to hear that it would be closed until mid-September. 

But, like other parents at the playground, she understands that renovations are a good thing in the long run. 

During the closure, the San Francisco Recreation and Parks Department will install synthetic turf on the flat area, and rubber on the sloped portions of the playground.

“The kids call this the ‘big park;’ it has all the activities and is a mix of kids,” says Teresa Skelly, who came to the park with her brother, Connor Skelly, and his two kids. They take the J train from Balboa Park to the playground because they like it so much.

But she says, “It has gotten a lot of love, so I see the need [for renovations].” 

This closure comes at a time when many parents and teachers are looking to encourage their children to play outdoors, due to Covid-19 risks.

Catherine Cook and Jena Rogers, both sixth-grade teachers at Thomas Edison Charter Academy, were only able to see their students in person for four weeks this year. Today was the second to last day of school, so they brought a small group of students to the playground at Dolores Park to enjoy the outdoors and play together. 

“They are so happy to get out, and they are having so much fun socializing,” said Cook.

One of the kids had told Rogers: “it is just so nice to be at the park!”

The Dolores Park Ambassadors note that Mission Playground at 19th and Valencia, Eureka Valley, and the recently renovated Christopher Playground in Diamond Heights will provide an alternative to children looking to play during the closure. 

But some parents say the nearby Mission Playground is dirty, and that they have found human feces in the sandbox there.

Dalia Gonzalez, a Mission resident who cares for a young girl told, pointed to a drum toy that was cracked at the top, as she pointed and explained in Spanish that “the playground needs repair, and that as long as they’re going to open it again, it is good.”

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Clara-Sophia Daly is a multimedia storyteller and reporter who has worked both in print and audio. A graduate of Skidmore College where she studied International Affairs and Media/Film studies, she enjoys working at the intersection of art and politics, and focusing on the stories of individuals to reveal larger themes.

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  1. Yes, the timing seems cruel, I hope it could be delayed by a month at least. City kids have suffered a lot through loss of play opportunities thru this pandemic.

    There is also a very real need for all people to have a bathroom they can use. I love Mission Playground and it has nice bathrooms during the day. Maybe they can add portapotties that can be used at night.

  2. Artificial turf? That sounds awful! Who is getting paid to install the turf and complete the other renovations?

  3. The playground at 19th and Valencia is hardly comparable – it’s for really little kids only. It’s honestly ridiculous to schedule the closure for summertime when the playground is most needed.

    Had anyone been thinking, they would have repaired it while the playground was closed due to covid, but since they didn’t, the least they could do is close it in the winter instead of during the only 3 months all year that kids are out of school and not quarantined at home. You gotta wonder who thinks up these things.

  4. They closed to the playground for a year during Covid-19! Why didn’t they do repairs then? Sometimes it seems the city government and school system has actual malice towards kids.

    1. My thoughts exactly–this is not the first time the Park and Rec. has closed parks right when summer starts–so much for “Get Out and Play”.