Breaking Ground on a New Era at Cayuga Playground

Standing beside friends and neighbors in the city’s Outer Mission and Cayuga Terrace neighborhood, Mayor Edwin M. Lee broke ground today on a much-anticipated renovation project at Cayuga Playground.

Cayuga Playground is a local favorite of District 11 residents. Tucked away amidst housing, the I-280 freeway and BART tracks, it is considered to be one of San Francisco’s hidden gems. It is perhaps best known for its sculpture gardens, created by retired and longtime city gardener Demetrio Braceros, who transformed Cayuga Park’s naturalistic surroundings into charming, whimsical works of art. Visitors from the City and beyond have come to the park to admire his collection of wood sculptures and carvings.

Despite its charm, Cayuga Playground, originally built in 1950 and last renovated in 1982, currently has one of the greatest needs of all the parks in San Francisco.  But thanks to San Francisco voters who overwhelmingly approved the 2008 Clean & Safe Neighborhood Parks Bond, Cayuga Playground will soon be amongst the best playgrounds in the city.  The bond is renovating 13 city parks across the city, as well as making improvements to park restrooms, play fields, trails, the urban forest and waterfront areas.

“Today’s groundbreaking at Cayuga Playground is another great example of our City’s investment in creating a world-class park system and creating a place where San Francisco’s families can thrive,” said Mayor Lee. “Once complete, the residents of District 11 and San Francisco will greatly benefit from this new playground revitalization project.”

The project will include the repair and renovation of the park’s athletic courts, play area, and clubhouse; the restoration of existing roads and pathways; upgrades to the irrigation and lighting systems; modifications to the site to remove barriers and improve accessibility; and overall reconditioning of the park landscape.  A portion of Cayuga Avenue will be converted to park space and the new clubhouse will feature a living roof.

As part of the project, the San Francisco Arts Commission has commissioned a public art component by artist Eric Powell, who will create a welcoming gate to the new park, incorporating art pieces inspired by Braceros’ sculptures.  The construction material for the gate will be forged, heat-bent, fabricated round steel tubing that is welded and finished with grinding, sanding and brushing.

The District 11 community has long been anticipating the renovation of Cayuga.

“Cayuga Park is testimony to the fact that collaboration among stakeholders is possible and of great value to our community,” said Chris Dillon, president of the Cayuga Improvement Association (CIA). “Many individuals enjoy this sanctuary from young to old, families to teens, students to workers on lunch breaks, dog and their guardians, and all creatures great and small.  We celebrate the beginning of an improved better neighborhood park.”

The construction budget is $9.4 million, with $7.3 million coming from the 2008 bond.  The department also received over $700,000 from a California state urban greening grant (Prop. 84).  The new park is expected to be completed in early 2013.

“San Francisco voters showed their support for our park system in 2008 and entrusted us to manage these projects and deliver them on time and on budget,” said Phil Ginsburg, general manager of the Recreation and Park Department.  “We will continue to work in lockstep with our fellow city agencies and park partners to ensure these projects are completed accordingly.”

Also in attendance at today’s groundbreaking were PJ Johnston and Susan Pontius from the Arts Commission, Mohammed Nuru from the Department of Public Works, and Braceros, who was treated to a rock star’s welcome by old friends and coworkers.

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