Magical Bridge, an all-abilities playground located in Redwood City’s Red Morton Park, opened to the public Tuesday morning with officials encouraging residents to plan ahead and play safely. 

“We’re super excited for it and when we started planning and construction we never imagined we’d open in a pandemic,” said Chris Beth, Redwood City Parks and Recreation director.

In partnership with the Magical Bridge Foundation, an all-abilities parks nonprofit started by Olenka Villarreal and Jill Asher in 2016, the city opened the nearly $7 million park which spans over an acre of land.

After two years of construction, the playground features a series of slides and wheelchair accessible spinning amenities, swings, two water features and an interactive playhouse made of redwood modeled after a theater stage. The grounds also feature “retreat zones” where those experiencing heightened senses can find secluded space to relax. 

Claudia Olalla, a parks landscape designer who’s been with the city for more than 20 years, said the playground goes “beyond ADA,” including amenities that are Americans with Disabilities Act compliant but are truly accessible in practice. 

Instead of using engineered wood fiber, splinterless wood chips deemed ADA compliant, the facility installed rubber ground which allows easier access for those in wheelchairs. All amenities are also fitted to allow adults of all abilities resources to play. 

“It’s all ages, all abilities, all welcome and we were trying to take into consideration the visually impaired, hearing impaired, physically impaired, cognitively impaired. We really tried and I’m sure there’s things we can definitely improve and we hope to learn from this … but what we learned here will influence future playgrounds whether they’re Magical Bridge or not.” said Olalla. 

While indoor amenities have been completed, additional landscaping is slated to be complete in a couple months, said Olalla, adding that officials are open to feedback about the playground. 

Kayly Fresquez, a nanny based in Redwood City, said she and the two boys she cares for, Isaiah, 5, and Caleb, 3, have been anxiously waiting for the playground to open. On Tuesday, the boys spent most of the morning playing on equipment, only to return later in the day after eating lunch at home. 

“This is the best. … No matter what your ability is, you can play here and have fun here and I think that’s really great,” said Fresquez, noting the boys have played at the Palo Alto Magical Bridge park as well. “There’s so much to do and you can really stay here for hours.” 

Similarly, Ryan Schumacher, a father of two, said his 5-year-old son William and 3-year-old daughter Millie love the playground. 

“We were sad when the park was shut down for a couple years. It took a while to build,” said Schumacher. “We went to the Palo Alto park and it was a fun scene … but this is better than Palo Alto. It’s pretty nice.” 

Due to COVID-19, the facility has a maximum capacity of 75 at a time who may be asked to limit play to 30-minute slots if a line develops outside the grounds. To avoid large crowds and gatherings, officials request that those interested in visiting the facility plan ahead to visit during slower hours. 

All guests will be asked to wash their hands before entering the grounds and to sanitize while playing. Hand washing stations are provided at the two playground entrances, the south entrance at the Valota Road parking lot and the north entrance near the Veterans Memorial Senior Center. Face coverings will also be required at all times though those with medical conditions can receive a sticker indicating their accommodation. 

Visitors are not allowed to eat inside the facility, for sanitary reasons but “nibble nooks” have been placed outside the grounds where visitors can sit and eat, said Olalla. City staff is currently monitoring the facility while the Redwood City Parks and Arts Foundation recruits volunteers, called kindness ambassadors, who will host programs and manage the playground.

“More than ever in our fractured and divided nation we need more places that welcome everyone, that is kind and respectful and nonjudgmental,” said Villarreal. “The magic of the holiday season is it’s always messaged with joy and kindness and the work we do is to bring that kind of cheer … to make the world a more magical place.” 

Visit rwcpaf.org/kindness-ambassador-program to learn more about the Kindness Ambassador position.

sierra@smdailyjournal.com 

(650) 344-5200 ext. 106

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