In 2017, the Mountain View City Council approved a project to design and install an all-inclusive Magical Bridge playground at Rengstorff Park. The full scale of the project is at risk, presently, for lack of funding. We are appealing to city leaders to promote a sense of urgency about this situation. Mountain View deserves to enjoy the profound benefits of a regional destination Magical Bridge playground, like our neighbors do in Palo Alto and soon to be joined by Redwood City, Sunnyvale, Santa Clara, and Morgan Hill.
At the time of the council vote in 2017, the only Magical Bridge playground in existence was in Palo Alto's Mitchell Park. We knew that many of our community members traveled to Palo Alto so they too could enjoy the benefits of play and community connections, and we wanted a Magical Bridge playground of our own in Mountain View.
Mindfully designed for everyone at every stage of life, Magical Bridge playgrounds allow all people to play, regardless of one’s abilities, at the same time using play equipment for all ages and sizes. If the adage of “if you build it, they will come” ever was tested, the results of the Palo Alto facility went beyond any forecast. People came. And they came. And they came again. In non-COVID-19 times, over 25,000 visitors play every month, with two-thirds of them coming from beyond the borders of Palo Alto. And the visits, on average, last over two hours.
Clearly, the demand exists, and other neighboring cities, including Sunnyvale, Santa Clara, Redwood City, and Morgan Hill, all have stepped up to the plate by agreeing to build them. The idea of the inclusive playground was so important that the county of Santa Clara matched city funds through an All-Inclusive Playground Grant (AIPG). This is critical because the space size, the specialized equipment, signage, and overall safety of the location are very expensive to build.
The funding for the park has come from three primary sources. The first is the city, which contributed $1 million. The second is the county, which contributed $1.7 million. The third is the Magical Bridge Foundation, a nonprofit organization that designs the playground and raises funds for all the Magical Bridge locations by asking local residents and businesses for donations. For Mountain View, the foundation helped write the AIPG grant application and has additionally raised $1.13 million from 650+ community members. Plus, our school-aged kids in Mountain View collectively raised over $30,000 in pennies, nickels, dimes, and quarters through school coin drives.
The City Council has the discretion to tap funds from the park reserves to build and maintain the public spaces we so much enjoy. Presently, there is a $900,000 deficit from what we have and what we need to fully fund the project and move forward. But there is an opportunity right now to change this.
When big corporate building projects are approved, attached to them are many “community benefit” requirements. On June 23, the council approved a massive Google project called “The Landings” with an estimated $44 million of community benefits that the city would reap. At this meeting, the council failed to attach the $900,000 community benefit fees to the Magical Bridge playground for Rengstorff Park. As such, the Magical Bridge playground may need to be scaled back considerably and would ultimately lose much of the real magic other communities will be enjoying.
We, along with others in the community, strongly encourage the council to dig deeper into their negotiations with Google or commit to using the park-in-lieu funds to move this project forward, or we will lose out on a huge benefit for our community for which we will all be proud. This is the time for the council to make a public commitment that absolutely everyone in Mountain View deserves a place to play, regardless of ability, disability, size, or age. We need to step up and give everyone in our beloved community a place to play at Magical Bridge playground in Rengstorff Park. Certainly, we need this valuable asset to exist in our city rather than compel people to travel elsewhere to enjoy what it has to offer.
Most of the money is already there. Let’s cross the finish line together and move this project forward to give this community a reason to celebrate true inclusion and be hopeful post-COVID-19.
Ken Rosenberg and Mike Kasperzak are former mayors of Mountain View.