Two weeks ago, Diablo Vista was ready for action and I went to check it out. I'm at that awkward age - my kids are grown and I don't have any grandchildren yet - so I have to rely on strangers to provide me with playground expertise. Amy White and her two little boys - Chris, 4, and Andrew, 2 - were at Diablo Vista around 11 a.m. that Saturday.
"We like to go to the bagel store and then come here on Saturday mornings," Amy told me. "We've been saying for about a month, 'It sure would be great if the park opened.'"
She was happy with the new features. "The climbing rock is cool," she noted. "They both love climbing." But the cement snake that winds down the hill is still the best feature, she said, especially when water is running down its back and pouring out at the bottom, over its tongue and through nozzles on its nose. EBMUD is currently mandating that water features at parks be turned off.
On this day, Chris and Andrew were playing "food takeout" in the new structure. They kept coming to their mother (and me) to take our orders. We asked for water, ice, apple juice, carrot sticks, apple slices and finally ice cream. With chocolate syrup. They ran back and forth filling our requests. It'd been awhile since I'd had an imaginary chocolate sundae - delicious and calorie-free!
Amy said she's thankful for the focus the town has been putting on the playgrounds and said her family visits different parks and enjoys Music in the Park at Oak Hill. Although they live near both Diablo Vista and Sycamore Valley, she prefers Diablo Vista because she can sit in the shade. However seven young trees have been planted at the Sycamore Valley play area so its future looks cool.
Next I struck up a conversation with Isabel Benn who was on the seat wall holding 5-month-old Henry. Dad Paul was keeping an eye on 2-1/2-year-old Nathan, who covered a lot of territory. Isabel said they live within walking distance of this park as well as three in San Ramon so they had plenty of places to play but they'd missed this one.
Paul said they'd been at Diablo Vista when workers were tearing down the old playground and that had been exciting for Nathan to see the big machinery at work. Paul had gone to the town's Web site to find out more about the new play area and wondered what happened to the sandpit that had been in the plans.
I called Danville landscape architect Bob Russell and learned the sandpit was removed from the plans because they are difficult to maintain and hard to make accessible for children with limited mobility. When I asked about the benches that had been there, he explained they installed the seat wall instead so parents could sit down closer to their playing kids.
Russell said the fences were to come down at Sycamore Valley Park early last week. And, I understand, the bocce ball league kicked off its season with the new shade structures and nearby tables and barbecues in place. The total two-park project cost $1.04 million.
Playgrounds sure have come a long way since my childhood, when the play area at my grammar school was cement, painted with a few hopscotch and four-square diagrams. The new Danville play areas are state of the art, with "resilient safety surfacing" in bright colored sections and structures that are designed "to promote child development" as well as being safe. And they sure look like fun!
-Dolores Fox Ciardelli can be e-mailed at editor@DanvilleWeekly.com.