SAN FRANCISCO – The California Parks and Recreation Society (CPRS) has awarded its Excellence in Park Planning for two recent capital renovation projects — Boeddeker Park and Cayuga Playground. The CPRS awards program recognizes outstanding achievement in the areas of facility design, park planning, marketing and communication, and community improvement and programming. The two awards will be presented to the Department at a ceremony in Long Beach, Calif. this week.
“CPRS recognizes the wonderful design of these great community assets and also the well thought out and highly inclusive community input process that led to the end outcome,” said CPRS President-Elect Jim Wheeler.
In partnership with the Trust for Public Land, Boeddeker Park reopened in October 2014 after a $9.3 million renovation. The nearly 1-acre park is in the heart of San Francisco’s Tenderloin, a neighborhood with limited access to open space and a high percentage of households living below the poverty line. Opened in 1985, the park is named for beloved local pastor Father Alfred Boeddeker. The renovation included significant improvements to the park, including a new 4,300 square foot clubhouse with green building features and greater visibility; play areas for school-aged children and toddlers; a regulation-size high school basketball court; an adult fitness area with outdoor exercise equipment; a perimeter walking path; a stage and performance area; and outdoor plazas for informal gathering and programs such as Tai Chi. The California Department of Parks and Recreation provided a generous grant of nearly $5 million in addition to support from Banana Republic, Levi Strauss Foundation, McKesson, Pacific Gas and Electric Company, and Wells Fargo.
“We have worked diligently, along with our sister agencies, The Trust for Public Land, the Tenderloin community, the Cayuga Improvement Association and our programming partners to plan and design Cayuga Playground and Boeddeker Park to meet the unique needs of their diverse neighborhoods,” said Phil Ginsburg, SF Rec & Park General Manager. “I am grateful that we were recognized for these efforts and am honored to be able to share this great news with the community.”
Cayuga Playground reopened in August 2013 after a $9.4 million renovation under the 2008 Clean and Safe Neighborhood Parks Bond. The renovated park included 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.
The San Francisco Arts Commission (SFAC) played an essential role in the renovations of both Cayuga Playground and Boeddeker Park. The four-acre Cayuga Playground, juxtaposed against a stretch of Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) tracks, is an idyllic park 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.
SFAC worked 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.
“We are so lucky to live in a city that ensures that high quality public art is a feature of all of our parks,” said San Francisco Arts Commission Director of Cultural Affairs Tom DeCaigny. “We are incredibly proud to have been a key partner in both of these park renovations where we had the opportunity to commission new projects by local artists and conserve extant artworks that were deeply valued by the community.”
San Francisco Public Works designed the playground, landscaping and new clubhouse as well as oversaw the construction of the Cayuga Playground project. In addition, they worked with the neighbors to vacate and transfer a part of Cayuga Avenue in order to increase Cayuga Park by 8,400 square feet.
“Cayuga Park is a very special place and deserves this recognition,” said Mohammed Nuru, Director of San Francisco Public Works. “The 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.”