Evan ducharme/special to the S.F. ExaminerThe Elinor Friend Playground reopened Sunday after a year of rebuilding efforts.

Remodeled 36,000-square-foot playground opens at San Francisco Zoo

There were a few roars at the San Francisco Zoo on Sunday morning, and a lot of howling and swinging about.

The antics weren’t from the wild animals, though, but rather the pack of kids enjoying the first day of the newly reopened Elinor Friend Playground.

The rebuilding of the playground took about a year, and the reopening of the space brought out several hundred families Sunday morning to the play area, which is modeled after three bioregions of the world.

Toddlers climbed all over the smaller River Play Area, which is designed for kids 6 months to 2 years old, while gaggles of older children scaled the nearby Polar Zone’s white structures, built for kids ages 2 through 5, and climbed through the Banyan Tree structure, constructed for kids ages 5 through 12.

The new structures and rubberized flooring replace the old wooden and metal equipment, which was set in sand and concrete. The former playground was the focus of a lawsuit about disability access that was settled in 2005, and the new one incorporates a design intended to make it accessible to all zoo visitors.

The new play structures were built with “fully compliant ADA [Americans with Disabilities Act] accessibility features to accommodate children with physical and mental disabilities, with a strong emphasis on exploration and adventure encouraged for all,” according to the zoo.

“From Day 1, it has been our priority to create a play space that enables all zoo visitors — including those with visual, physical or cognitive disabilities — to connect with nature while engaging in active play,” San Francisco Zoological Society President Tanya M. Peterson said in a statement. “We are overjoyed with the outcome and so appreciative of everyone who made this visionary playground possible.”

Much of the $3.2 million project was funded through donations, according to the zoo.

By the numbers

300,000: Number of kids who visit the zoo each year

36,000: Square feet of space in the new playground

24: Years since the playground was last updated

$3.2 million: Donated for the redesign and rebuild

12: Months it took to fabricate and install new equipment

26,000: Pounds of steel used to create play areas

12,000: Square feet of rubber for play areas

0.5 ton: Wood from fallen redwoods reclaimed for use in River Play Area

3: Bioregions of the world represented in playground

Source: San Francisco Zoo

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