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McLaren Park Natural Playground

Client: City of San Francisco
Collaboration: CMG Landscape Architecture
Location: San Francisco, California
Completion Date: Spring 2020

This hilltop playground is truly a unique urban experience. It is located at McLaren Park in San Francisco, the third largest city park after Golden Gate and the Presidio. Part of a revitalization project by Let’s PlaySF, this redesigned playground and picnic area takes advantage of site topography and offers extraordinary vistas from the southern end of the city.

A multi-level log tower is the playground centrepiece; it is accessed in multiple ways, including via a large log jam™. A 20 foot long stainless steel slide is an exciting exit route from the top of the tower! In plan view, the enormous log jam climber appears to spiral away from the tower. This detail makes subtle reference to the famous tie-dye t-shirts regularly worn by Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead. The nearby Jerry Garcia Ampitheater is named for the artist who was born and raised in the adjacent neighbourhood of Excelsior. The playground thus makes a wonderfully covert connection to this local musical icon.

The McLaren Park site also offers climbing opportunities for more cautious explorers. The design includes boulders to scramble up and down, log steppers for hopping, and a wide embankment slide for adventures closer to ground level. Seating and hammocks around the site are great places to observe, lounge, or cloud-watch.

The Let’s PlaySF initiative is a joint partnership between the City of San Francisco Recreation and Park Department and the San Francisco Parks Alliance.

For other Earthscape playgrounds in San Francisco, check out Willie Woo Woo Wong playground and Francisco Park playground.