Palo Alto's reopening plans don't include popular 'inclusive' playground, parents say it's desperately needed

Amanda del Castillo Image
Wednesday, October 14, 2020
Palo Alto's reopening plans don't include popular playground
The City of Palo Alto says it has successfully reopened 29 playgrounds, with the exception of one.

PALO ALTO, Calif. (KGO) -- The City of Palo Alto says it has successfully reopened 29 playgrounds, with the exception of one.

Magical Bridge at Mitchell Park was designed to meet the needs of everyone, regardless of ability or disability. It's considered an "inclusive" playground.

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On Tuesday, ABC7 News met 7-year-old Jackson Bard, who is eager to return to Magical Bridge.

Founders said the popular Palo Alto park welcomed more than 25,000 visitors a month, before the pandemic.

City leaders said it's that high visitation and space limitation behind the decision to keep the playground closed for now.

"It has lots of spinning things, it has swings, it has bumpy slides," Bard said.

The playground also considers the needs of those living with a wide range of cognitive and physical disabilities.

Portola Valley resident, David Ortega said, "It's vital for our kids to be able to come to parks like this. Especially this one."

The city's Chief Communications Officer Meghan Horrigan-Taylor said in a statement to ABC7 News:

"Due to State and County limitations on gatherings and other safety restrictions, and to balance high visitation and space limitations at Magical Bridge Playground, a much different approach is needed to reopen our beloved and unique community and regional playground. We are collaborating with Magical Bridge Playground leadership to develop a reopening plan, though timing remains unknown."

Councilman Greg Lin Tanaka added, "I don't think it's going to take too much make this happen. It's just right now, there's a lot of new things for staff. So they're trying to figure this stuff out."

Over the weekend, Tanaka hosted a Facebook Live "office hours" chat, where he discussed the Safe Reopening of Magical Bridge in Palo Alto.

He told ABC7 News on Tuesday, "There may not be very many options available. So I think opening this park should be pretty important. I think should be a pretty high priority."

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Magical Bridge Foundation co-founders Olenka Villarreal and Jill Asher were not immediately available to interview on the subject.

However, in an email, Asher told ABC7 news, in part:

"We very much want the playground opened and we are working closely with the city to create a plan to staff the playground, limit the number of visitors, encourage mask wearing for those who can wear them, and remind visitors to stay 30 minutes (or less). Our hope is that the playground will open soon.

We continue to be so grateful to create MAGICAL PLACES for everyone to play, regardless of ability, disability, size, or age. And look forward to SAFELY AND RESPONSIBLY opening Magical Bridge Playground in Redwood City in mid to late November -- and soon, reopening Magical Bridge Playground in Palo Alto in the same way."

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Councilman Tanaka echoed, "You have to, I think, throttle how many people could go through. Maybe limit how much time each person can be there- each family could be there. I think making sure there's proper hygiene, there's proper social distancing is also important."

Yael Uziel Naveh, a parent of a teen with severe developmental disabilities spoke publicly during Tanaka's Facebook Live session.

She demanded the city explore a more precise plan to reopen the highly beloved resource.

"I just would like the city to think about it and make a commitment," she said. "To when it will open so that the people who have been the most isolated during this time don't continue to be isolated."

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