by Judith Kahn
The historic Mountain Lake Park, located at 12th Avenue and Lake Street, reopened
to much fanfare on June 8.
Because the day was overcast with a slight drizzle, organizers thought the
weather might keep people away, but close to 300 people showed up to celebrate
At the grand re-opening, the joyful sounds of children playing were heard as
they climbed on the many new or renovated structures at the playground. In particular,
the concrete slide, which had long been the centerpiece of the park and is
still a favorite with children, has been sandblasted and sealed along with its former
metal rails being removed. The refurbished slide now provides children with a
much smoother ride than in the past. In addition, a handicap-accessible path and
transfer station has been added to the top of the slide to make it usable for
children of all capabilities. During the grand re-opening, the youth created a never-
ending line to take repetitive rides on their favorite structure.
Those who attended included families with children that live in the neighborhood and
people who supported the project. There were speakers from the Natural
Park Service, Friends of Mountain Lake Park Playground (FMLPP), Phil Ginsburg, SF
Recreation and Park Department general manager; and San Francisco Supervisor Mark
Farrell, who represents District
Participants talked enthusiastically about how proud they were of a successful
partnership among the civic, business and community groups that made the
renovation of the park possible.
Mountain Lake Park was built nearly 30 years ago and needed a lot of improvements.
The renovation of the park was all together a six year operation, from
conception to community meetings and design, fundraising,
permitting, the bid process and construction. Its cost was $3.15
million, which was funded by the Clean and Safe Neighborhood Park Bonds approved in
2008 and 2012. There was also financial support from FMLPP, Presidio Trust, and funds
secured by Farrell.
The park is a cherished jewel for people in the Richmond District and for those who
come to use it from other parts of the City. Today, all ages and abilities can use the park
and playground, from tots to tai chi seniors.
Playground visitors will enjoy the topography and beautiful setting of the park, which
abuts the Presidio national park, which has historical significance. In 1776, Spanish Capt.
Juan Bautista de Anza had his small band of explorers camped there while scouting out
a location to build their “presidio,” or military post.
The 15.2-acre park is situated on land bordered by the Presidio to the north,
Park Presidio Boulevard to the west, and Lake Street and the Richmond
District, to the south.
The rebuilt park’s amenities include a lakeside beach area, children’s play area,
sport courts, an off-leash dog play area and a freestanding rest room. On the
site there are also tennis courts.
In the ’90s, someone decided to get rid of a baby alligator and
threw it into Mountain Lake. Over the years, the alligator, affectionately
named Golden Gator, grew and became an occupant of the lake until taken
away amid much fanfare. In addition, in the early ’90s, there was a swan named Myrtle
that would on occasion leave the park and strut along Lake Street, to the public’s delight.
Today, Mountain Lake has been deepened, toxic waste removed and native species
returned, including the Western Pond Turtle and Pacific Chorus Frog. Each year,
hundreds of local school children visit Mountain Lake to learn about the lake’s ecology
through Presidio Trust-sponsored field trips.
Aaron Gomez, an architect with Bohlin, Cywinski, Jackson Architecture Planning Interior
Design, was one of the primary planners for the site.
“Our goal was to make the playground feel as though it had always been there, on the
shore of Mountain Lake. We wanted it to be specific to this place, to this part of
San Francisco and nowhere else,” Gomez said.
Gomez said they wanted to make the playground as inclusive as possible by providing
gentle access ramps to all play areas. He said he was excited to have the opportunity to
contribute to something positive in the community where he works and lives.
There are many new play structures in the playground, which were furnished by Richter
Spielgerate through Architectural Playground Equipment. Much of the equipment looks
as though it could have been made from logs collected from the surrounding
forest. Some of the new structures are toddler swings, high swings and, for older
children, a climbing forest and jumping discs.
The rebuilt Mountain Lake Park Playground was a long time coming, and many of the
participants at the re-opening said it was well worth the wait.