City Beat

Dispute over play park is no fairy tale

Fairytale Town would like to expand by half an acre, toward some soccer fields and a picnic area in Land Park. Organizers would like to add an indoor learning space and spruce up the bathrooms the facility shares with the park.
Fairytale Town would like to expand by half an acre, toward some soccer fields and a picnic area in Land Park. Organizers would like to add an indoor learning space and spruce up the bathrooms the facility shares with the park.

Humpty Dumpty sits on a wall above the entrance to Fairytale Town, that beloved children’s play land in Land Park. But if Humpty’s friends aren’t careful, we might one day be asking whether someone pushed him from his stoop.

That’s because the folks who run Fairytale Town are thinking about expanding. The park has been open since 1959, and advocates think it’s time for some “enhancements.”

Kathy Fleming, the facility’s director, said the planning is in an “embryonic” stage, but she has some ideas. Fairytale Town would like to expand by half an acre, toward some soccer fields and a picnic area in Land Park. Organizers would like to add an indoor learning space and spruce up the bathrooms the facility shares with the park. It’s expected the work would cost at least $5 million, raised mostly from private donors.

Advocates have only just begun briefing groups like the Land Park Community Association about their idea and are probably months away from more developed plans. But just the thought of expanding the amusement park is likely to ignite strong emotions from Land Park neighbors. Just ask the Sacramento Zoo.

Some Land Park residents went berserk when a consultant told the zoo in 2010 it should consider expanding into the park. It didn’t matter that the zoo didn’t have a formal expansion plan and that the idea was one of a half-dozen floated by the consultant.

One woman called the idea “atrocious” at an anger-filled neighborhood meeting. Members of the Land Park Community Association demanded the idea be shelved, and they won.

This time around, the community group is taking a cautious approach.

“We need to let the different voices be heard,” said Ken Mennemeier, president of the Land Park Community Association.

Mennemeier said this is a debate about how our city’s open spaces should be treated. Some will contend that expanding Fairytale Town will benefit thousands of visitors and should be considered. But others will say – and they’ll probably be forceful – that the park should be left alone.

“This is a remarkable open space,” Mennemeier said. “And there are those who say if we start to partition the park, if we start to fence off portions of the park, its views could be compromised.”

Land Park is 166.5 acres. It’s our Central Park, a natural oasis in the middle of a major city. But Fleming argues that even with all that open space, kids don’t have enough room to run.

“When I grew up, children had a one- or two-mile radius to play,” she said. “Now they have 70 feet. Making places that offer safe space for outdoor playing is very, very important.”

Fleming will have to handle this carefully. Or it could create a mess so big, it’s gonna take more than a few horses and men to put it back together again.

Call The Bee’s Ryan Lillis, (916) 321-1085. Read his City Beat blog at sacbee.com/citybeat.

  Comments