At 5 p.m. Sunday, power tools and extension chords covered the ground as over 200 volunteers put the finishing touches on walls, fences and benches. Children, meanwhile, waited anxiously to try out their new playground.
Five minutes before 6 p.m., the kids lined up and began chanting “We want to play.” Then, with the cut of a ribbon, they poured into Dreamland for Kids in unison.
“It’s jam-packed with kids and parents,” said Project General Manager Zasa Swanson, after nearly being trampled by kids running into the playground for the first time. “This is just amazing.”
Volunteers worked practically around the clock in the final drive to finish the playground, located in Aquatic Park between the foot of Bancroft Way and the foot of Dwight Way. Even Mayor Shirley Dean and her husband, Dan, came out to lend a hand in the final hours before the project’s deadline.
“I think the playground is wonderful,” Dean said. “It’s a really positive kind of thing, and everybody is enjoying themselves and having a good time.”
The playground had to be finished by Sunday evening, and organizers invited the public to a ribbon-cutting ceremony at 6 p.m. Sunday.
Leathers and Associates, an architectural group from Ithaca, N.Y, assisted local organizers in building Dreamland for Kids. The playground’s construction lasted two weeks; the first phase ran from May 18 to May 21, and the second began Wednesday and ended Sunday. Hundreds of volunteers from around the Bay Area turned out during the course of construction.
Apart from a few small details that will be completed by today, the playground was finished by the time of the opening ceremony. A garden will be installed this summer and landscape work on the surrounding area of Aquatic Park will be done in the next few months as well.
“This park will be a destination landmark for not just children, but for families all over the East Bay,” said Mark Liolios, who oversaw public relations for the project.
“I thought if we were lucky, the playground could be really good. ... It’s fantastic.”
So far, children and their parents have taken to the playground very nicely. Joe Newell, the 10-year-old who came up with the name “Dreamland for Kids” simply said, “I think it’s cool.”
Project organizers said they hoped that all of the Berkeley community would use the playground, and that classes would visit to learn about the ecology of Aquatic Park, a theme that is incorporated into the playground.
Dreamland for Kids features several large wooden structures connected by spider-web walkways, several slides, two sets of swings, and benches for parents to sit on. There are areas for both older and younger children to play in.
The ground is covered with wood chips, and soon bricks and tiles will be placed along the walkways throughout the playground.
Organizers are still fund-raising, with hopes to raise $130,000. The public can purchase bricks for $100, which will be inscribed with the name of the donor, and tiles for $25, which children can paint.
For more information on donating, call 510-649-9874.