Playground’s grand re-opening

by Judith Kahn


The historic Mountain Lake Park, located at 12th Avenue and Lake Street, reopened

to much fanfare on June 8.


There was a ribbon cutting ceremony on June 28 at the Mountain Lake Park, located at 12th Avenue and Lake Street. Helping were (from left) Mark Farrell, District 2 Supervisor (reaching), Jen Fentner Booth, Kate Green (holding scissors), Phil Ginsberg, general manager of the SF Recreation and Park Department, and Clare Myers. In background looking over Green’s shoulder is Aaron Gomez, an architect at Bohlin, Cywinski, Jackson Architecture Planning Interior Design. Photo: John Oppenheimer

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

the event.


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 newly re-opened Mountain Lake Park Playground, located at
12th Avenue and Lake Street, had a large crowd turn up for its
grand re-opening on June 8. Photo: John Oppenheimer

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.

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