County awards $125,000 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 a total of $125,000 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, whose District 4 includes Redwood City. "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 Board approved a $50,000 Measure K grant in October 2016 at the request of Supervisor Slocum towards the purchase of a carousel. The Board subsequently approved two additional grants totalling $75,000 in June 2017: $25,000 at the request of Supervisor Dave Pine for three retreat huts and $50,000 at the request of Supervisor Slocum for two spinners. 

Magical Bridge along with local officials, donors and supporters broke ground on the Redwood City playground in November 2017.

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: this article was first published in October 2016. It has since been updated to reflect additional grants approved in June 2017 and to reflect the groundbreaking.)