Noe Valley Voice July-August 2003

'Slide Park' Turns 30

By Dodie Hamblen

Noe Valley families who have experienced the thrill of zooming down one of the two super-fast cement slides at "Slide Park," should head to Seward Street on July 19 to celebrate the park's 30th birthday. A bronze plaque commemorating neighborhood appreciation will be unveiled, and children will have the opportunity to add to a 25-foot-long play-dough bas-relief wall that was begun by neighborhood children in 1974 when the park was one year old.

The park is dear to neighborhood families because many of them were involved in its inception. In the late '60s and early '70s, the site, along with the Corwin Street Community Garden above it, was slated for development as a 104-unit apartment building. Through the grassroots efforts of friends, neighbors, and the Eureka Valley Promotion Association, the development was stopped and in 1973 the Seward Street Minipark, as it is officially known, was inaugurated.

Shimon Schwarzschild, a former president of the Eureka Valley Promotion Association, says saving the patch of green was quite a feat. "It was a six- or seven-year struggle, but our fight against the development of that space worked to change zoning laws throughout the city. The resulting rezoning cut occupancy limits [for residential buildings] in half."

Now, three decades later, Schwarzschild is still proud. "I feel so happy that one small piece of land got eternal protection, but what is really important is that in the process, neighbors got to know each other and attitudes changed."

The curved double slide, which is a favorite destination of many a Noe and Eureka Valley child, was designed by a 14-year-old girl, Kim Clark, who won a "Design the Park" competition. Clark grew up on Seward Street and attended nearby Alvarado School, where she participated in a special arts program pioneered by Noe Valley sculptor Ruth Asawa.

"Ruth Asawa and her kids were very involved in the Slide Park project," recalls Kim's mother, Annette Clark. "To have children participate in the design was part of the philosophy of the time, which emphasized learning through the arts. We were very conscious of giving children opportunities to do design work."

Clark adds that her daughter's winning slide design was inspired by a slide that many of the city's children loved at the old Playland amusement park at Ocean Beach, torn down in 1972.

Neighbor Effie Kuriloff, whose family also was involved in saving the Seward Street space from development, says of the upcoming event, "It will be a wonderful celebration. The creation of this park was all about building trust and building community."

Local artists Paul Lanier (son of Ruth Asawa), Paula Egan, and Nomi Schwarzschild will be on hand to help kids make play-dough sculptures, which will be cast in cement and added to the self-portraits, snakes, butterflies, and other whimsies depicted on the original mural. Kuriloff says that in keeping with the goal of promoting community design, space will be left for the mural project to be continued at a future birthday celebration.

The party, which will include a potluck picnic, will take place on Saturday, July 19, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., at the Seward Street Minipark near the corner of Douglass Street. (Seward begins at the western end of 20th Street.) For more information, call 437-0900.