Tout-Dolores and Valencia Corridor has been turning out to cavort in Dolores Park’s new Helen Diller Playground, which opened on Saturday.

Kids playing a big xylophone at Helen Diller Playground (Jon Brooks/KQED)

My wife and I were not impervious to the buzz – we were way pervious, in fact, watching a steady stream of wee ones and their keepers liven up the ‘hood in giddy anticipation of a new place to romp. On Monday we joined the herd and took our three-and-5/8-year-old daughter to join the swinging set in sampling the very latest in luxurious playground living.

It was mostly a toddler affair, at 10 a.m. on a school day. But the lack of diversity in the ages of the clientele did not diminish the festive atmosphere, even a couple of days after the official opening. Around 10:30, the brand spanking-new facilities, perfect weather, fabulous city view and overflow excitement of children encountering  new slides and swings for the first time coalesced into a critical mass of joy and goodwill available to all in proximity.

“This is great, way better than the other one,” said Yuri Godwin, on a second visit already with three-year-old son Henry. Of the park’s predecessor, he said “it seemed to be filled with glass and needles.” Henry likes the slides the most, his dad claimed. “I’ve been to all of the playgrounds, so far this is probably the best one.”

Natch, I ran into my neighbor’s nanny, Julette Galo, there with her two fraternal charges, three-year-old Beau and two-year-old Cutty. “The best playground. Biggest one I’ve seen so far,” said Julette, who as a professional has been to more than she can count. “Oh God,” she interrupted, when the two-year-old began swinging from a rail at the top of a big slide. “Grab him, will you,” she ordered a complete stranger, who complied.

Next I talked into my Android phone recorder. “There’s an oval sandbox. A two-tier, recessed stone wall. A good selection of rocks dot the whole semi-circle. They look almost random in occurrence but have clearly strategically placed. There are big musical instruments for the kids to play, areas for both little kids and older children, multicolored rubber surfaces for safety. One of the slides is very steep but extremely narrow, with little chance for a careening toddler to swerve and tumble into a bad landing. The park is surrounded by a nice-looking Christian Science church on one side, palm trees on another, and also a view of Mission Dolores. ”

“Boy, you’re a real Bob Woodward,” said my wife, as she surveyed my daughter’s snack options.

“So what do you think of the playground?” I said.

“It’s great, a really diverse playscape.”

“Oh, playscape, is it?” I turned to my daughter. “What do you think of the playground,”

“Good.” She said.

“What’s your favorite thing to do?”

“Slide on the slides.”

“Anything else you want to say about this playground?”


The sandbox at Helen Diller Playground in Dolores Park. (Jon Brooks/KQED)

It was getting truly crowded. A fully grown man was trying out the swings. One can only hope he was accompanied by a child, as a sign sternly warned all big people must. Likewise another adult at the top of the slide was facilitating — you know, moving things along. It was unclear if he was Rec and Park or just a slide enthusiast, though his repeated entreaties of “next, next!” lent an air of officialdom.

It was time to go, but my daughter screamed “bubbles!” because someone had released some, and I knew we were not going to keep on schedule. “Five minutes,” my wife warned her.

Twenty-five minutes later, we were gone.

New Dolores Park Playground — A Must Visit For the Swinging Set 17 April,2012Jon Brooks

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