Cayuga Playground Reopens after $9.4 Million Renovation

2008 Clean and Safe Parks Bond Project Finishes Under Budget

For Immediate Release
August 17, 2013

Contact: Elton Pon
Mobile: (415) 297-7174
E-Mail: elton.pon@sfgov.org

SAN FRANCISCO— The San Francisco Recreation and Park Department proudly celebrated today the reopening of Cayuga Playground, which recently underwent a $9.4 million renovation under the 2008 Clean and Safe Neighborhood Parks Bond. Supervisor John Avalos joined community members, the Cayuga Improvement Association, the San Francisco Arts Commission (SFAC) and the Department of Public Works (DPW) in celebrating the much anticipated reopening of one of the city’s most colorful and unique neighborhood parks.

“Like many of our neighborhood parks, Cayuga Playground is the heart and soul of the community, where residents old and young and from all backgrounds come together to play, exercise and enjoy the outdoors,” said Mayor Edwin M. Lee. “Through their ongoing support of city parks, San Francisco voters are expressing the need for clean, safe and inviting park spaces.”

The $185 million 2008 Clean and Safe Neighborhood Parks Bond, approved by 71.6% of San Francisco voters, has helped revitalize dozens of neighborhood parks throughout the city and has begun to address the more than $1 billion in capital need that faces the city’s park system. A 2012 Clean and Safe Neighborhood Parks Bond was also approved by voters this past November.

“District 11 is one of the city’s most diverse communities, and the newly renovated playground will serve a wide array of needs in this area of town,” said Supervisor John Avalos. “The residents in this community have worked extremely hard to make this a reality, so we are thrilled to help give it back to the folks who use and depend on their parks each and every day.”

The four-acre Cayuga Playground, juxtaposed against a stretch of Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) tracks, is an idyllic park spot that evokes a tropical island forest, thanks to its vast collection of unique wooden sculptures that is spread throughout the park. The sculptures are the works of Demetrio “Demie” Braceros, a longtime Recreation and Park Department gardener who retired in 2008 after a 22-year stint at Cayuga. Repurposing the trunks of fallen trees, Braceros would fashion his works of art using only a chainsaw and other carving tools; the result: 376 brightly colored wooden sculptures depicting animals, reptiles, birds and famous personalities, including former-Mayor Willie Brown, Michael Jordan, Princess Diana and local columnist Herb Caen.

“We are so fortunate to have such a unique and inspiring neighborhood park like Cayuga,” said Phil Ginsburg, general manager of the Recreation and Park Department. “Demie’s legacy is the love and attention he gave to this park and this community, day-in and day-out. The renovated playground is the perfect tribute to his work and will be here for generations to enjoy.”

The SFAC played an essential role in the renovation project, working with conservators to stabilize roughly 130 of Braceros’s sculptures. The process entailed removing the sculptures from the park, clearing away accumulated detritus such as dirt, mold and bugs, and applying a protective coating to help the artworks better withstand the elements. The revitalized sculptures are on display throughout the park, while the remainder are in storage or have been left in place to be reclaimed by the soil.

Additionally, through the City’s two-percent-for-art program, the SFAC commissioned artist Eric Powell to create two new decorative gates for the park. The design for the main entry gateway features vignettes drawn from Braceros’s sculptures linked together by images of plants and leaves that echo the park’s lush plant life.

“Demetrio Braceros’s beloved sculptures have made Cayuga Playground more than just a park, but a community space welcoming of contemplation and reflection,” said SFAC Director of Cultural Affairs Tom DeCaigny. “The reinstallation of some of Braceros’s finest sculptures on pedestals recalls an ancient temple, and the new gateway by Eric Powell, which incorporates familiar symbols and archetypes from folk art and mythology further signifies that Cayuga Playground is a magical place unlike any other in the City.”

The renovated park includes a new playground, resurfaced basketball and tennis courts and a brand new 3,400-square-foot clubhouse.
In addition, the project was granted an Urban Greening for Sustainable Communities Grant from the California Natural Resources Agency in the amount of $710,779 toward greening elements of the park. These elements include a living roof atop the clubhouse, new landscaping, and a bio-retention pond that will capture storm water overflow.

“Wait ‘til you see the new clubhouse with green roof, a sculpture courtyard and a multi-purpose room with surround sound,” said Mohammed Nuru, Director of the San Francisco Department of Public Works. “Equally special is the park, where sculpture-lined paths take you from the clubhouse to the children’s play area, to the relocated tennis and basketball courts and play fields. Our designers created an indoor and outdoor space that expands programs, is useful to all age groups and enhances Demie’s sculptures and vision at every turn.”

Barbara Fugate, President of the Cayuga Improvement Association, said of the new playground. “Cayuga Playground is an example of a perfect collaboration between residents of the neighborhood, SF Rec and Park, SF DPW and the SF Arts Commission. When you see it, I think you will agree that it is spectacular!”

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