Friday, June 12, 2015

Get to know the Rotary PlayGarden: A Q&A with Leslee Hamilton of the GRPC


The Rotary PlayGarden is San Jose's newest and most innovative playground, with both unique features and a unique background. It was built by the Rotary Club of San Jose as its 100 Year Legacy Project, with the goal of providing a place where all children in our community could play together, regardless of their abilities. The Guadalupe River Park Conservancy (GRPC) operates the PlayGarden, as well as the adjacent GRPG Visitor and Education Center.

I've had the good fortune of meeting the Executive Director of the GRPC, Leslee Hamilton, and she kindly offered to do a Q&A session for my readers about the new park and the GRPC's role in maintaining it.

Thanks to Leslee for preparing the following!

Q – What is GRPC’s role in the Rotary PlayGarden?

A – GRPC, a non-profit organization, operates the PlayGarden (and the Visitor & Education Center) on behalf of the City of San Jose.

The Rotary Club of San Jose proposed the PlayGarden as its centennial gift to the community, but the SJ City Council had passed a resolution to stop building parks unless there was a privately funded maintenance plan. The PlayGarden would not have been built if GRPC hadn’t agreed to maintain it.

I (Leslee) am a member of the Rotary Club and a PlayGarden donor, in addition to running the Conservancy. My board of directors and I take the maintenance and operations responsibility seriously and are working to preserve the park’s “wow” factor.

Q – Is the drought to blame for the water feature being dry?

A – Yes. Other than the drinking faucets and restroom, that’s the only potable water used in the PlayGarden. All the landscape uses recycled water.

Q – How can park users help maintain the Rotary PlayGarden?

A – Please pick up after yourselves; walk on the paths instead of through the planted areas; don’t allow your child(ren) to walk on the water feature (we’ve lost some rocks already) – there are lots of things that were designed for climbing but that’s not one of them.

You can also make a tax-deductible donation dedicated to the PlayGarden: http://www.grpg.org/rpg.

Q – Why aren’t dogs allowed?

A –The PlayGarden doesn’t allow dogs for two reasons: 1) many children are afraid of dogs, and 2) not all owners are good about picking up after their pets. Dogs on leash are welcome in the rest of Guadalupe River Park & Gardens.

Also, trained service dogs are allowed in the PlayGarden but not emotional support pets.

Q – Why don’t you allow people on the long grass at the entrance?

A – The long grass at the entrance is part of the landscape, and we are working to retain the visual appeal of the entry. As the PlayGarden name indicates, the garden element is an important part of the experience and the reason it isn’t a traditional playground.

Q - Why concrete slides instead of plastic?

A - Before designing the PlayGarden, Rotary held a community workshop to solicit input from families and agencies that work with people with special needs. One of the things learned that night is that plastic slides can interfere with cochlear implants so the decision was made early on to use concrete.

Q – What’s the biggest maintenance challenge?

A- The sand tables! City park staff warned us against having the sand feature but Rotary wanted that experience for children in wheelchairs (and others), and we agreed because toddlers love it.

Q – Why such limited hours?

A – In addition to covering the landscaping and janitorial costs, we are paying to have an attendant at the front gate. This is an unanticipated cost but a role we see as critical now that the park is operating.

We are in learning mode to see how the park is used and what it takes to maintain it. We’ve been asked to open earlier and close later and are considering both requests, but it takes quite a bit of time to prepare the park for another day of activity.

Q – What else does your organization do?

A – Our mission is to promote the development and active use of Guadalupe River Park & Gardens through education, advocacy and stewardship. We produce a monthly e-newsletter that lists our activities and classes: http://www.grpg.org/.

Nearly 5,000 K-8 students participate annually in our science-based field trips for public/private schools and children with special needs, homeschool classes, Boys & Girls Club activities, or small group programs. We will be starting free drop-in programs at the PlayGarden soon. We also offer gardening and fitness classes for adults.

We produce Pumpkins in the Park on the 2nd Saturday in October and the Super Guadalupe River Run on Super Bowl Sunday. We coordinate over 17,000 volunteer hours each year via river clean ups, Heritage Rose Garden and Historic Orchard maintenance, festivals, etc. Many corporate groups come for team building or service days, and we are blessed with lots of dedicated individual volunteers.

The latest news is that we are looking forward to restoring carousel operations at Arena Green later this year and will be evaluating whether to move the carousel to Coleman Ave or leave it where it is.

--------------------

***That last little bit of news is something I've been hoping for for several years! Hooray to the GRPC for continuing to make San Jose a more enjoyable and livable place for families!***

Thank you, Leslee, for taking the time to answer questions about the park!

(If you enjoyed this post, please consider supporting SV Toddler by doing your usual online shopping via my Amazon affiliate link. It helps me out, at no additional cost to you. Thanks!)

1 comment: