The rebirth of Mountain Lake Park Playground: The three amazing women who made it happen

Parks and open spaces are San Francisco’s great equalizer. They are free to anyone, from any age and neighborhood, to use and enjoy as they wish. They enhance our quality of life, generate significant economic benefits, and improve our environment. On top of having three young children, it’s why I have made parks and open spaces one of my top priorities inside of City Hall.

In dense urban areas like San Francisco, I believe it is crucial to not only maintain our parks and open spaces, but to upgrade and add new parks and open spaces wherever possible. It is why I fought to purchase the Francisco Reservoir to create a brand-new, 4.1-acre park in the middle of Russian Hill, and why I have supported similar projects in other San Francisco neighborhoods.

As our San Francisco population continues to grow, our parks and open spaces should grow right alongside. In District 2, we have recently completed the total renovation of Lafayette Park, finalized the improvements soon to come at Moscone Recreation Center, and most recently reopened Mountain Lake Park Playground after years of work.

All across San Francisco, we are blessed to have neighborhood leaders and park advocates who are willing to roll up their sleeves and join hand-in-hand with the city to work to make their neighborhood parks better.

Thankfully, Mountain Lake Park Playground is no different. One of the crown jewels of District 2, the playground was initially built more than 30 years ago and was in desperate need of attention. Unfortunately, it had barely been touched since I used to barrel down the cement slide as a kid growing up while visiting friends in the neighborhood.

Back in 2010, three amazing women — Kate Green, Claire Myers, and Jen Fetner — took it upon themselves to create and organize the Friends of Mountain Lake Park. I originally met them in City Hall early in my first term, when they came to advocate for renovations to the Mountain Lake Park Playground and offered their unrestricted support. Jen Fetner’s background in architecture, Kate Green’s professional project management experience, and Claire Myers’s deep relationships in the neighborhood served as a perfect trifecta of backgrounds and experience to lead the community and the project.

Make no mistake: This was their vision, their advocacy, and the Mountain Lake Park Playground that we all can enjoy now with our families would never have happened without their incredible efforts.

When we first met, everyone agreed it was past time to make improvements in Mountain Lake Park, but the project scale was daunting. In City Hall, we placed Mountain Lake Park Playground into the 2014 Parks Bond, and I was able to add additional funds through the Board of Supervisors. However, it was not enough to make all the needed improvements and upgrades the neighborhood deserved.

So for the past five years, the Friends of Mountain Lake Park worked with neighbors and the public to host community meetings, issue surveys, and to develop a design for all of the park improvements. Perhaps most important, through the leadership of Kate, Claire, and Jen, the Friends of Mountain Lake Park was able to raise more than $300,000 in private funds and secure more than $400,000 worth of pro-bono architectural design work from BCJ architects to complete the park renovations.

After a significant construction process, we finally reopened Mountain Lake Park Playground in early June. My wife and I have been there every week since with our children, and early reports are traffic to the neighborhood has doubled (a future issue my office will have to tackle).

As for the playground itself, in case you haven’t visited yet, the renovations did an amazing job respecting the park and playground’s history, while also becoming more modern. For example, the beloved concrete slide is still in place with a new scrambling wall alongside it. For those of us with little children, separate play areas were created for toddlers and older children, so everyone, regardless of age, would have a safe and fun place to play. The renovations also included a terrace picnic area and a larger open space between the playground for parents to park their strollers and congregate.

Everyone in my family has a different “favorite” part of the new Mountain Lake Park Playground — there is so much to love. This project is the epitome of what is possible when we all work together to improve our neighborhood, and a testament to true neighborhood leadership.

No matter where you find yourself hanging out on the playground, no matter what age or demographic you represent, know that the new Mountain Lake Park Playground would not exist without the determined effort of Kate, Claire and Jen — three amazing women, three amazing moms — who had the vision and followed it up with years of action to make it happen.

This article originally appeared in the July 2017 edition of the Marina Times:

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