The groundbreaking of the Magical Bridge Playground at Red Morton Park in Redwood City on Nov. 3 was considered a gift for all local residents — particularly families of children with disabilities such as autism.
In the blog Squidalicious on Sunday, longtime Redwood City resident Shannon Des Roches Rosa, who writes about parenting and autism, praised the new park — expected to be completed in fall of next year — for offering a safe space for her autistic son to play.
The Magical Bridge Foundation sets out to build playground for all abilities, saying truly inclusive play spaces are few and far between. Its first such playground was built in Palo Alto in 2015, and future playgrounds are not only coming to Redwood City but also Sunnyvale and Morgan Hill.
Toward the effort of making these playgrounds truly inclusive, Magical Bridge designs AA-compliant playgrounds, installs fencing to offering safe spaces for children with autism to leap from activity to activity, and also created the Hideaway Hut.
“The Magical Bridge Hideaway Hut is a place for kids and adults, especially those with autism and sensory challenges, to hang out in when active play feels overwhelming and frenetic,” according to the foundation. “It’s a calming, cozy place to regroup while observing through the gaps in the boards and re-emerge when ready.”
That kind of mindfulness for children of all abilities received praise from Rosa, who said her middle son, who was diagnosed with autism when he was 3 years old, has few options for play areas in Redwood City.
“As he got older, it became really obvious that the parks that he loved, like Maddux Park—where his big sister has a tile with a print of her baby-sized foot in the wall, and Stafford Park, and all the other wonderful parks in Redwood City were no longer as welcoming as they used to be,” Rosa wrote.
But Rosa then visited the playground built by the Magical Bridge Foundation in Palo Alto and “almost couldn’t believe that a place like it existed,” where children of all abilities felt welcomed and respected.
“It’s not about pity, it’s not about charity; it’s about making the world look the way it’s supposed to look—for everybody,” she said. “And that’s why I just can’t wait until we have Magical Bridge here in our own backyard.
The Magical Bridge Foundation’s vision was born after founder Olenka Villarreal, whose younger daughter has developmental challenges, learned her hometown of Palo Alto lacked truly accessible play spaces. After seven years of research, design and fundraising, Villarreal and a small team of volunteers built an all-inclusive Magical Bridge playground in Palo Alto.