SAN FRANCISCO – The plane has landed. After a $1.3 million renovation of Larsen Playground, the popular plane play structure is back. From 1959 until 1993, generations of San Franciscans played at “the airplane park.” The San Francisco Recreation and Park Department will host an opening celebration on Saturday, November 21st. The renovation was funded by a Community Opportunity Fund grant from the 2008 Clean and Safe Neighborhood Parks Bond, Open Space Funds, the City’s General Fund, through the generous support of former District 4 Supervisor Carmen Chu and sitting Supervisor Katy Tang, and a donation from the Friends of Larsen Playground and the San Francisco Parks Alliance.
“I am thankful for our community’s patience and support throughout the renovation process,” said District 4 Supervisor Katy Tang whose district includes Larsen Playground. “I am proud of the wonderful outcome of this renovation, and that this playground can now better serve kids and families in our neighborhood.”
“I’m excited to celebrate the opening of the newly renovated Larsen Playground,” said Assessor-Recorder Carmen Chu, former District 4 Supervisor. “It’s hard to believe that not so long ago the site was just an open sand pit with a few rusty swings. Now, with a nod to our history, we have a brand new jet playground where kids can continue to imagine and play.”
Larsen Playground is part of Larsen Park, a two city-block parcel located between 19th and 20th Avenues and between Ulloa and Wawona Streets. Immediately adjacent to the south of the Playground is Sava Pool, as well as the Wawona Clubhouse. And both Sigmund Stern Grove as well as McCoppin Square are located nearby.
The renovation included a new children’s play area, upgrades of pathways and landscapes, improvements to the irrigation system, as well as installation of park signage. But the star feature of this renovation is the installation of the plane play structure at Larsen Playground. The original plane play structure was a decommissioned F8 fighter jet, installed as a creative play structure. However, it was removed in 1993 due to concerns about lead paint and high abatement costs. Later, with the help from then District 4 Supervisor, now Assessor-Recorder Carmen Chu, as well as the current District 4 Supervisor Katy Tang, and the Friends of Larsen Playground, the Department acquired a new artistic version of the plane play structure installed at Larsen Playground.
“It has been a great journey of renovating Larsen Playground including the installation of the highly anticipated plane play structure,” said Phil Ginsburg, SF Rec and Park General Manager. “While we may have faced some obstacles along the way, we also have bonded as a team through partnerships with city leaders, park advocates and neighbors, and together we have overcome the challenges and are now able to celebrate Larsen Playground’s re-opening as a community.”
San Francisco Public Works master planned the site, designed both the pre-school and school-age portions and oversaw the construction of the renovated playground.
“It’s wonderful the way the community has come together to restore this neighborhood park,” said San Francisco Public Works director Mohammed Nuru. “The plane has landed and now the fun will begin.”
To ensure that the playground renovation included its famous play feature, the Friends of Larsen Playground rallied the community to fundraise and bring back the plane play structure that would meet the national playground safety standards. The Friends’ fundraising effort was supported by the parks advocate agency, the San Francisco Parks Alliance.
“The ‘Jet Plane Park’ is fondly remembered by generations of San Franciscans, including yours truly. Donors to Party for the Parks and Friends of Larsen Playground have shown a true love of San Francisco in restoring this community treasure,” said Matt O’Grady, Chief Executive Officer of the San Francisco Parks Alliance.
“Friends of Larsen has been thrilled by the support we received from former District 4 Supervisor Carmen Chu and current Supervisor Katy Tang and their staffs in our efforts to create this playground. None of this would have been possible without them,” said Nano Visser from the Friends of Larsen Playground. “We are lucky to have these talented women working for our families.”