West Sacramento fast-tracking Disney-funded playground in oldest city park

More than 200 volunteers in 2013  build a new Kaboom playground in one day in Arlington, Texas. A similar project is scheduled for West Sacramento on May 31.
More than 200 volunteers in 2013 build a new Kaboom playground in one day in Arlington, Texas. A similar project is scheduled for West Sacramento on May 31. Fort Worth Star-Telegram file

By the time it’s built in May, a Disney-funded community playground in West Sacramento’s Bryte Park could well be the happiest place in town.

West Sacramento’s oldest and largest park will get a 9,000-square-foot play space as part of a unique, fast-track deal between the city, The Walt Disney Co., and Kaboom, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit that works with communities across the country to ensure children have places to play.

“I am thrilled about this project, both for what it is, the actual build, and what will be created,” said West Sacramento Mayor Christopher Cabaldon at Wednesday’s City Council meeting.

At 9,000 square feet, the playground will be “substantially larger” than the average Kaboom playground project, Cabaldon said.

Disney is pledging $180,000 as part of outreach efforts in the Sacramento area to mark Disneyland’s 60th anniversary and “provide much-needed infrastructure for the community,” Disney officials said in a letter to the West Sacramento City Council announcing its award.

West Sacramento is matching that amount plus adding other city funds already allocated for park improvements. Kaboom will manage the project and provide playground equipment and public art.

Cabaldon this week said Disney talked with West Sacramento officials on March 10 about a playground at Bryte Park, the hub of two of the city’s main neighborhoods in Bryte and Broderick and a regional attraction beyond the city’s borders.

“Disney approached us a few weeks ago on the off chance that we’re the place that could make an entire park happen,” Cabaldon said. “We jumped on it. Within hours, we had an answer in hand.”

Kaboom playground projects run on a fast-track – often six to eight weeks from announcement to “Build Day,” the one-day sprint to erect the play spaces. The nonprofit has built more than 16,000 playgrounds across North America during its nearly 20-year history, 60 of those with Disney.

“We like to look for communities that are taking the initiative in prioritizing play by taking on a project, said Kristine Austria, a Kaboom spokeswoman. “We want to give ownership to the community. It’s their playground.”

As many as 400 volunteers from across the community are expected to be enlisted in the project design and the playground’s construction, set for May 31. But the starter’s gun has already sounded. Preparation work must be completed by May 27. The city plans to excavate the area, build a concrete border, create an accessible path and add a seating and picnic area.

“We have to finish it. We’re going to get it done,” Cabaldon said. “The community is creating it and building it together.”

Improving Bryte Park with a new playground and community garden has been talked about for as many as 10 years in the city’s Bryte Park Master Plan. But funding had been hard to come by before the offer from Disney and Kaboom, Cabaldon said. Unlike new neighborhoods like Southport, where developer fees generate enough money to build amenities for residents, established areas lack ready sources of funding.

“For a park like Bryte, improving it to serve all kinds of residents has been a challenge,” Cabaldon said. “That’s why support from Disney was so critical.”

Cabaldon said the playground, along with earlier improvements at Bryte Park such as new restrooms, and the opening of Westfield Park in the nearby Westfield Village neighborhood, is improving amenities for children and families on the city’s north side.

Sharl Castorena, a Bryte neighborhood advocate with the Yolo Progressive Council, said the soon-to-be-built playground would be a huge addition not only to an aging Bryte Park, but for West Sacramento’s north side where recreational opportunities are scarce.

Those opportunities have become even more scarce, at least for the immediate future, with the destructive playground fire late Thursday at nearby Riverbank Elementary School. Fire heavily damaged the metal and plastic playground equipment, causing an estimated $50,000 in damage, according to West Sacramento fire officials.

Cabaldon said he expects West Sacramento residents will step up to help rebuild Riverbank’s playground and construct the new one at Bryte Park.

“The timing’s really bad,” Castorena said of the fire. “We need to find out why that happened, but the community will pull together.”

Castorena said a playground at Bryte Park “would do wonders for the north side of town.”

“We need something over here,” Castorena said. “We have the biggest park in the city and it’s time for it to be upgraded for the kids.”

In the run-up to the project’s May build day, local children will also get the chance to help design the playground along with adults.

“On any given weekend, it’s nothing to have a thousand kids” at the park, Castorena said. “The opportunity to be part of the planning, it’s a great opportunity. Along with Kaboom, the opportunity to have students design different options – it’s educational for them. We want them to feel that it’s their own park. We’re getting to pull together as a community. West Sacramento needs that.”

Call The Bee’s Darrell Smith, (916) 321-1040.

For more information, call Bob Johnston, West Sacramento parks and recreation director, at (916) 617-4620.

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