Recreation and Park

Petition to Save Sand Play Areas Gathers Hundreds of Signatures

Alice Chalmers Playground. Photo: San Francisco Recreation and Parks Department

As the Recreation and Parks Department begins fixing up thirteen neglected playgrounds around the city, it’s receiving pushback from an unlikely place: sand fans.

A petition by Save the Sand SF calling on the city to replace sand in the playgrounds it remodels has gained 749 signatures in two months.

The organizers, who describe themselves as parents, educators and pediatricians praise the benefits of sand as a tool for play.

“Sand enables children to touch, to feel, to create, to invent, to experiment, and to make meaning every day, on their own terms and with their own agenda,” the petition states. “Sand play epitomizes child-led learning and enables representative play, cooperative play, and solitary play.”

RPD representatives have said that sand is problematic since it must be removed during renovations and requires maintenance, according to Leyla Momeny, an Ocean View resident and Save the Sand activist.

Of the city’s 137 children’s play areas, 58 percent of them have sand and are open to the public, according to Connie Chan, RPD’s deputy director for communications.

“With all the park renovations, the Recreation and Park Department engages in a design planning process with the community about what is best for the parks, and sand is often discussed as part of a design element,” Chan stated.

Momeny and other sand advocates are not satisfied with RPD’s “case by case” decision making process, since it gives preference to wealthier, more politically active neighborhoods.

While Save the Sand has made some progress advocating for keeping sand at Panhandle Playground, Momeny says that long-neglected playgrounds like Merced Heights Playground could be left out.

“I see parents fighting back in the richer and Whiter parts of town. SFRPD is now at least open to considering sand at Panhandle –– as a result of our efforts –– but what about Merced Heights? What about these kids?” Momeny stated on Thursday.

The petition calls on RPD to mention the benefits of sand play in its community meetings and to seriously consider adding an accessible sand area to each of the remodeled playgrounds.

McLaren Playground, Alice Chalmers and Merced Heights Playground are currently being redesigned as part of RPD’s Let’s Play SF initiative.

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