Toddlers from Palo Alto's Crescent Park neighborhood and preschoolers from St. Elizabeth Seton School gathered at Eleanor Pardee Park Tuesday morning to assist Mayor Nancy Shepherd with a ribbon cutting that officially re-opened the park's tot lot.
The toddler-dedicated area was renovated as part of a $600,000 project that also included re-paving the park's asphalt pathways and installing a more efficient irrigation system to reduce water waste, among other improvements. The tot lot's updates include new equipment, bright blue rubber surfacing and a 42-inch fence enclosing the space so that parents can let their children run free inside.
"It's turning out to be a beautiful park," Shepherd said, addressing the young attendees at the park on Center Drive. "My grandson is 2-and-a-half years old and he's going to want to play in it just like you."
Shepherd asked the 20-some preschoolers who was looking forward to playing in the park; every hand shot up in response. Then, she and the kids hefted a pair of oversized scissors and sliced through a festive red ribbon spanning an open gate to celebrate the new park. After cheering, the preschoolers lined up for free ice cream.
Also at Tuesday's ceremony were Councilwoman Liz Kniss and Peter Jensen, landscape architect for the engineering division of the city's Public Works Department.
The park's age 5-and-up playground has remained open during the renovations, as most of the improvements have been focused on the toddler area.
Another major goal in updating the park was to reduce its water usage, which the project addressed by repairing and retrofitting the existing irrigation system. The park's improvements also include new benches, tables, barbecues and drinking fountains.
Eleanor Pardee Park's tot lot is now the "most up-to-date" of all of Palo Alto's toddler playgrounds, Shepherd said.
Shepherd noted that the park was originally the site of an old Palo Alto estate, pointing to palm trees that may at one time have flanked a stately facade. According to Jensen, Eleanor Pardee Park was originally "created as the ideal park of the 1950s," with undulating pathways, grassy fields and numerous trees.
In recent years, however, local parents found the park's eucalyptus trees a source of stress, due to some poor trimming that caused limbs to break and come crashing down.
"There were some narrow misses," Shepherd said, with Kniss adding that "there was sort of an outcry to remove them."
The trees were eventually uprooted and cleared away, but the park was still on a "long-overdue list of capital improvements," Shepherd said.
This particular park was on a five-year schedule, Shepherd said, adding that the city now has a comprehensive parks schedule that calls for frequent updates to its many public open spaces.
The inclusive Magical Bridge Playground, Monroe Park and Hopkins Creekside Park are some of Jensen's other current projects. The city will also be soon embarking on a Parks Master Plan, which they'll be kicking off with picnic-style meetings where residents can give their input about the city's future park plans, Shepherd said Tuesday. The city is also hosting a community meeting Wednesday, May 28, 7 to 8 p.m., at Bowden Park to discuss proposed playground and landscape improvements for the High Street park.
"We're trying to find a different way to tap into people's visions for Palo Alto's parks," she said.