Outfitted with new play equipment, a Golden Gate Park playground that was torched by vandals last June has officially reopened, and City leaders on Saturday thanked a group of preschool advocates for ensuring that its reconstruction remain a priority of The City.
“The true heroes are the young men and women in orange today,” said Philip Ginsbourg, general manager of the San Francisco Recreation and Parks Department, referring to about a dozen students of the Stepping Stones Preschool who attended a news conference held at Koret Children’s Quarter Playground.
The playground was often frequented by students of the preschool, located a few blocks away from the park at Seventh and Irving streets, who with the help of their teachers and parents championed for its reconstruction after it became the target of an overnight arson some nine months ago, causing its closure.
A new rope climbing structure and climbing wall have been installed, and the playground’s iconic concrete slide has been refurbished.
The renovations came at a cost of some $388,000, with some $18,000 in funding provided by the San Francisco Parks Alliance, $25,000 by the Koret Foundation, $95,000 by San Franciscans for Sports and Recreation, as well as $250,000 allocated from the office of the late Mayor Ed Lee.
The most significant donation, however, was the $283.17 raised by the preschoolers and hand-delivered to Lee last year, according to Ginsburg.
“The $283 came from their lemonade and donut sale that they had outside on Irving Street,” Ginsburg said. “They rallied for the playground and then they presented their money to the mayor. The rest is history.”
Ward Frye, the father of six-year-old Stepping Stones preschool student J.P. Frye, said his son and other students from the school would walk over to the playground on a near-daily basis.
“One day, they suddenly saw the structure burned down and they got really sad. Their teachers did a lot of outreach and explaining and helped them through it,” Ward said. “Then they decided they wanted to raise money to help bring the play structure back. They were afraid it wouldn’t come back.”
Faced with a closed down playground, the kids took the matter into their own hands. With their parents and teachers, they made lemonade and donuts which they later sold on Irving Street, near their school.
“Within 40 minutes they raised almost $300,” Frye said. “A few days later they got invited to see Mayor Lee and handed him the money. Mayor Lee said it would definitely be rebuilt, and this is their moment.”
The playground and adjacent carousel first constructed in 1888, and with funding provided by the Koret Foundation underwent major renovations in 2007, when it reopened as the Koret Children’s Corner.
For many San Francisco natives, the playground’s concrete slide is cemented in fond childhood memories.
“We all came here when we were little and we all remember the slide, the cardboard and getting some air off of some of those jumps,” Mayor Mark Farrell said on Saturday. “When this playground burned down it captured the imagination of our city.”