The fundraising drive for the Magical Bridge Playground in Mountain View is facing a heightened sense of urgency as the deadline for the project's grant funding approaches. Boosters say they have less than two months left to close a $1 million funding gap or else the scope of Mountain View's playground will need to be downsized.
Slated to open in 2021 at Rengstorff Park, Mountain View's Magical Bridge Playground has already drawn huge interest among families and community leaders. The playground style is designed to accommodate as many children as possible, regardless of physical, cognitive or sensory ability. For that reason, the playground has been championed by parents of special-needs children seeking a new inclusive play area.
For nearly a year and a half, the Magical Bridge Foundation and its corps of volunteers have been collecting donations toward the estimated $4.5 million cost of the playground. As of this week, organizers say they still remain far from that goal, having raised only $3.5 million. Of the money raised, $1.7 million came from a Santa Clara County grant, $1 million was provided by the city of Mountain View, and about $818,000 came from local companies and foundations. About $118,000 was raised through individual donations, including a student coin drive at local elementary schools.
Some of the money raised from the playground requires it to open to the public no later than 2021, said Jill Asher, Magical Bridge co-founder.
For that reason, the playground must go into the design phase within the next weeks, she said. By that point, the playground designers will need to know whether they can afford the original scope of the project, or if they’ll need to cut costs. That might mean eliminating some of the playground’s specially designed zones, or making the structure smaller in size.
“We’ll either have find a way to get this money, or we’ll have to do a $3.5 million playground,” Asher said. “It will still be wonderful, but it won’t be as good.”
The frustration being felt by the playground advocates was on full display at last week's Mountain View City Council meeting. Magical Bridge board chair Joyce Reynolds-Sinclair pressed the city to help bridge the funding gap before what she described as an April 1 deadline. Reynolds-Sinclair pointed out that Morgan Hill and Sunnyvale had contributed about twice as much as Mountain View toward building their own Magical Bridge playgrounds.
"Mountain View has not yet allocated its fair share," she said. "We're only asking for parity from Mountain View in support of this project, which helps vulnerable populations."
The comments did not elicit any response from the City Council, at least in public. Multiple city leaders later told the nonprofit they were not pleased with the sudden pleas for more money.
Speaking on Friday, Asher walked back those comments from her board chair, saying it was not their intention to badger the city into providing the money. She explained that corporate fundraising in Mountain View turned out to be much more challenging than expected. Asher also later clarified that the group hopes to move into the design phase by late May.
“I don’t want people to feel discouraged,” she said. “If we had to go into design today, we still be able to do it, and it would be magical.”
More information about the Magical Bridge Foundation can be found on the group's webpage.