County awards $50,000 to support a park that will delight all.

Playgrounds are great for kids. But for many children with disabilities, playgrounds are off limits.

Wheelchairs get bogged down in sand. A child without upper body strength can fall out of a swing. Children with autism or other disorders may find a playground's chaos overwhelming.

That is going to change in Redwood City, which is planning to build a playground that will delight children -- and adults -- regardless of age or ability. To contribute to the effort, the Board of Supervisors has awarded $50,000 toward the playground that will be built in Red Morton Park. The funds are from Measure K, a countywide sales tax extension approved by voters in 2016.

"If you've ever seen a child's face light up with delight at the sight of a playground, then you know why it's so important that we as a community support this effort," said Supervisor Warren Slocum, who recommended the County funding. "This allocation will help furnish a playground that will provide all children of all abilities the opportunity to play together."

Redwood City is working with the Magical Bridge Foundation, a nonprofit group founded by a Palo Alto mother seeking a safe and fun place for her daughter, who has developmental challenges, to play with other kids. Magical Bridge opened a playground in Palo Alto's Mitchell Park in April 2015. It's heralded for being "more inclusive and more challenging than the standard California playground."

Taking a spin at the Magical Bridge playground in Palo Alto.
Taking a spin at the Magical Bridge playground in Palo Alto.

The Redwood City playground will be Magical Bridge's second. It is scheduled to open in late 2017 or early 2018.

Olenka Villarreal , founder of Palo Alto’s Magical Bridge playground, and co-founder of the Magical Bridge Foundation, is thrilled that what was once a dream for her daughter, is now being embraced by Redwood City and beyond.

“I knew when we were designing Magical Bridge in Palo Alto, we were doing something very special.  It wasn’t until we opened last year, did I come to terms with its full impact. It warms my heart to hear from countless families who thank us for having a place to play as equals," she said in a statement. "We hear from those who drive (and fly!) long distances so their children can finally celebrate a birthday at a public playground.” 

At Red Morton, plans call for smooth surfaces that can accommodate wheelchairs, walkers and crutches. Children in wheelchairs will be able to access a two-story treehouse. Special retreats will be built in for children who may become overstimulated. A spin zone, bucket swings and a sway boat provide the opportunity for everyone to get in motion.

Accessible playground are more expensive to design and build that traditional playground. The Sequoia Healthcare District has pledged financial support, and a fund-raising campaign is under way to fully fund the project.

Supervisor Slocum said, "I'm excited that we have joined the City of Redwood City and other donors in supporting this project to expand play opportunities, support local families and delight children!"

(Editor's note: funds for the project will be allocated from Measure K, the countywide half-cent sales tax extension approved by voters in November 2016. This article was updated on Dec. 28, 2016, to list the funding source.)