‘Magical,’ inclusive playground coming to Santa Clara

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SANTA CLARA (KRON) — A dozen small children played on a 1960s-era playground nestled between trees in Santa Clara’s Central Park. The small structure was made out of mostly concrete and wood.

While they were playing, a dozen city leaders were across a field announcing that those children will soon have a new, $4-million playground designed by a foundation hailed for building some of the best places to play in the country.

The City of Santa Clara and Magical Bridge Foundation signed an agreement to tear down the 1960s structure and replace it with an inclusive, state-of-the-art playground where everyone in the community — including children with disabilities — can gather together, have fun, and exercise.

One in every four Americans live with a visible or invisible disability, said Olenka Villarreal, CEO and Founder of Magical Bridge Foundation.

“Magical Bridge Playgrounds leverage the innovative spirit of Silicon Valley, create a new way to play and will unite this community in a more magical way. Expanding to Santa Clara’s Central Park is an exciting and natural extension for a city with such strong leadership and welcoming ways,” Villarreal said.

Villarreal was inspired more than a decade ago to design parks after she realized that there was nowhere her two daughters — one of which has a disability — could play together in a public park.

So she founded Magical Bridge Playgrounds and led the way for building a one-of-a-kind park in Palo Alto. Her vision for a park not only became a reality — it also became one of the top-rated parks in the country.

Santa Clara’s new park will resemble the park in Palo Alto, and include new features that reflect the community of Santa Clara.

The inclusive playground also welcomes adults to climb, swing, spin, run, and jump for exercise and fun. Villareal pointed out that movement has long-term health benefits for children and adults alike.

Mayor Lisa Gillmor said, “We are so excited to bring this new experience to our community, so everyone – young or young at heart – has a space where they can play together.”

The Magical Bridge Playground will encompass an acre, and will be sectioned into distinct zones of play.

Each zone will “welcome and address the physical, cognitive, and social needs of all playground guests, regardless of ability and foster positive connections with others,” Gillmor said.

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