Closed until Oct. 15, the Magical Bridge Playground in Palo Alto is undergoing renovations that will include much-needed repair work to its existing structures while ushering in a new feature that will help with accessibility for visitors who are blind or have limited vision.
Since its opening in 2015, the Magical Bridge Playground has received national and international acclaim for its inclusive and innovative design features that accommodate people of all abilities and ages. In 2016, the Magical Bridge Foundation was established to help create more playgrounds on the Peninsula and provide events at the spaces.
The playground has received its fair share of wear and tear as a result of constant use. Approximately 25,000 visitors come through the playground every month, according to Olenka Villarreal, who conceptualized the Magical Bridge Playground. She co-founded the foundation with her friend, Jill Asher.
"We have served a lot of people, and it's definitely time for what I call a thorough and loving refresh," Villarreal said.
The city of Palo Alto's website described a number of maintenance and safety upgrades to the playground that includes more shading, rubberized resurfacing, turf and railing replacements, restaining of the playhouse, a new net on the spinner and painting and planting enhancements. The work began on Sept. 1.
The total project budget is $891,600, according to a City Council report dated Sept. 12.
The budget "reflects a cost of $735,000 for design and construction and $155,000 in salaries and benefits (…) The bid solicitation resulted in awarding a contract of $495,000," Community Services Director Kristen O'Kane said in a statement.
Funding also has come from community donations, such as from The Anne Wojcicki Foundation and the Troper Wojcicki Foundation, which provided money for new shading over the spin zone.
"It's a public playground that benefits the community and receives ongoing support from the community," Villarreal said.
Villarreal described the installation of a new playground feature: A "magic map" that was made possible by a donation from the Enlight Foundation and should be ready by the time of the playground's reopening.
"We had a blind designer create a map that allows you to know where you are in the playground if you have low vision or no vision. It's one of the first of its kind," Villarreal said.
Villarreal was quick to add that despite the playground's reputation for innovation and inclusivity, there is always room for improvement.
"We can all do a little bit better when it comes to designing for all the members of our community," she said.
While the Palo Alto playground is closed for renovations, visitors can go to other Magical Bridge Playground locations in Redwood City, Morgan Hill and Sunnyvale. More information about these locations and related projects can be found at magicalbridge.org.