Neighborhood parks are making the grade

While a higher percentage of San Francisco playgrounds is getting top marks, according to a study done by local park advocates, one in five is in poor condition and could pose safety risks to the children playing there.

The nonprofit Neighborhood Parks Council sent volunteers to survey 118 playgrounds and, based on the findings, gave D or F marks to 25 of the children’s play areas. Some playgrounds received the same failing mark in a similar survey conducted in 2006.

Recreation and Park Department spokeswoman Rose Dennis said the grades are based on a “snapshot in time” and insisted the department was doing “a great job” taking care of The City’s playgrounds. Needed renovations were in the works, but take time, she said, noting that adequate resources are always in need.

Meredith Thomas, program manager for the Neighborhood Parks Council, said there were a variety of reasons why some playgrounds received failing grades. Some had old, unsafe play structures, issues related to cleanliness and safety, and/or maintenance problems.

One F-graded park, the Christopher Playground, has signs posted that children should not eat on the play equipment and should wash their hands afterwards, Thomas said, because the wood may contain arsenic.

The 2008 results are “both frustrating and expected,” Thomas said, acknowledging that The City does not currently have enough money invested to address all of the playground needs.

Nathan Ballard, a spokesman for Mayor Gavin Newsom, said a park bond recently passed by voters would provide funding for the playgrounds, in addition to financial support from The City’s general fund.

“Every one of these playgrounds is a priority to the mayor and he will fund the repair of many playgrounds in his budget,” Ballard said.

Supervisor Sophie Maxwell, whose district includes Youngblood Coleman Playground, which scored an F, said that while The City needs to do a better job overall with parks, she also suggested that parks in more affluent neighborhoods receive more attention.

“It’s just so unfair,” she said, noting that her district has the highest percentage of families and children.

Some playgrounds that scored poorly in 2006 saw improvements. Potrero Hill Playground went from an F grade in 2006 to an A grade in 2008 after undergoing an extensive renovation.

jsabatini@examiner.com

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