City tells kids to keep out of playgrounds, but parents say no way

After hearing from angry parents, city of Sacramento employees took down signs restricting access to public playgrounds on Tuesday, a day after the signs were installed.

The restrictions, which were in effect for less than 24 hours, would have given the city’s Tiny Tot Time programs for preschoolers exclusive access to the popular playgrounds in William Land Park, Coloma Community Center and South Natomas Community Center until 3 p.m. on weekdays.

Children not enrolled in Tiny Tot Time programs were excluded.

After continuous calls from outraged parents, the city removed the signs.

“I think it’s important that we consider that the playgrounds are supposed to be used by preschoolers at certain times of the day,” city spokeswoman Linda Tucker said. The city wasn’t planning to remove the signs, she said, but “if the playground means so much to families with children, we certainly want to make it work out for everybody.”

The city installed the signs after hearing from Tiny Tot Time directors, who complained about large groups, including children from other schools, using the playgrounds during the day. Adults and teens were often part of the mix, the directors said.

“When a busload of kids come out to the playground, this makes it very difficult to have room for our children,” said Rachael Hinrichsen, director of the Land Park Tiny Tot Time. “We coordinate many outdoor activities, and it is important to provide a safe environment for the children.”

Limiting access to the playgrounds for most of the day didn’t sit well with parents in the affected neighborhoods. They contacted the city and Tiny Tot Time directors all morning Tuesday and asked that the signs be removed, city officials and preschool directors said.

“More than 50 people got angry and called me this morning,” Hinrichsen said in tears. “Why am I being vilified for what is needed for the children?”

Heather Yee, a parent in the Land Park neighborhood, said many regular users of the playground were stunned at suddenly being shut out. The short-lived restriction unfairly penalized families for the behavior of others, she said.

“If there is an issue with large groups, they should address those specific groups,” Yee said. “There are way more people using the playground than children in the Tiny Tot program.”

Councilman Steve Hansen, who represents the Land Park area, agreed.

“We thought it was wrong to put the sign up,” Hansen said. “The playground is there for the neighbors to use. We are going to work with parents to find the best solution.”

Walter Ko: 916-321-1436, @juntaeko