S.F.'s Balboa playground to receive rebirth

Last Halloween, parents in San Francisco’s Mission Terrace neighborhood passed out more than candy to trick-or-treaters.

Along with the goodies, they slipped in small fliers about the neighborhood’s decrepit playground, asking interested parents to join their new group, the Friends of Balboa Playground.

The parents had one mission — to replace the sagging wooden logs and rusting steel barrels that made up the play structure at the Balboa Park playground, which serves an area with the highest population of children in The City.

The playground, built in the 1970s and located in the Mission Terrace neighborhood on San Jose Avenue, has long been an eyesore, not to mention a major source of anxiety for parents who bring their children. A swinging bridge that was barely attached was recently removed and jagged steel edges on the slide were also recently covered.

“We’ve maintained it, but it obviously needs to be renovated,” spokeswoman for the Recreation and Park Department Rose Marie Dennis said.

But with the help of the San Francisco Neighborhood Parks Council and the Recreation and Park Department, the parents’ efforts have finally paid off. The national nonprofit, KaBOOM!, awarded the group a grant to rebuild the park on the condition that members raise $15,000 toward equipment.

A community design day will be held this fall, and after a playground model is selected, members from the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons will build the playground next spring in one day, as part of their annual convention and partnership with KaBOOM!

“I know how things often take a long time to happen, but it’s really amazing that this is happening so quickly,” said Kristina Youso, who has lived in Mission Terrace for about five years and is excited to bring her son Jonas, 4 months, to the park when he is old enough.

In the last few years, the area surrounding Mission Terrace, which includes the Outer Mission, Excelsior and Ingleside districts, has been home to the highest population of children under 18 in San Francisco. Nearly 14 percent of all The City’s children live in the area, according to U.S. Census 2000, the last year data was available.

The state of the Balboa Park play structure has forced many parents in the area to stop using the neighborhood for recreation. “We often find ourselves driving to other parks,” said Stacey Leyton, who helped start the playground group.

arocha@examiner.com

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