Noe Valley Voice March 2005

Gathering Tools for a New Noe Courts Playground

By Valeria Vegas

A couple of Noe Valley moms are asking their neighbors to join them in sprucing up the playground at Noe Courts, the small city park located on Douglass Street between 24th and Elizabeth streets.

"We both spend a lot of time there with our kids, and we think the park could be a lot more safe and a lot more compelling," says Hoffman Avenue resident Laura Norman, who along with neighbor and friend Ilene Osherow is forming a new group, Friends of Noe Courts Playground.

She and Osherow have their own "to-do" list, which includes replacing the play structures, putting in fresh sand or new flooring, and installing safer fencing around the children's play area.

"The gate is useless, and there's no fence to contain the younger kids," says Norman, who often brings her 2-1/2-year-old son Miles to play at the park. "My kid can vault over the side, and suddenly he's out on Douglass Street."

But in January, at the suggestion of Friends of Noe Valley and the Neighborhood Parks Association, Norman and Osherow drew up a questionnaire to find out what kind of changes other park users would like. Noe Courts, which has a tennis court, a basketball court, and a large grassy area above the children's sandbox area, enjoys a mix of users, including people playing sports, walking their dogs, or just relaxing on the green.

"Our first undertaking is to assess the desires of the community as a whole," says Norman.

The survey was distributed at the Friends of Noe Valley meeting Feb. 10, and features such questions as "What are your most important play and activity needs?" and "What type of play equipment would you like to see at Noe Courts?"

If you didn't make the meeting, the questionnaires are still available at the Noe Valley Library on Jersey Street, or at Friends of Noe Valley's web site: "It's easy to fill out the survey online, and you can send it in right then," says Norman.

Anyone--with kids, dogs, both, or neither--is welcome to offer his or her opinion, she says. Just turn in the survey by March 15, because the group hopes to relay the information to the city's Recreation and Park Department by early April.

So, who would foot the bill for the facelift? (Rec and Park will offer manpower and architectural guidance, but it's not likely money will be available in this economic climate.) And how long would it be before the renovation got started?

"Of course, we'd like to see this done as soon as possible," says Norman, "but we are in the very beginning stages. First, we need to establish Friends of Noe Courts Playground," as well as a neighborhood consensus on the goals of the project. Once that's done, the fundraising will begin in earnest.

Meanwhile, Norman and Osherow are already gaining the support of their neighbors. More than 70 families have signed up for their mailing list, and as many have completed the survey.

Others who might be interested in volunteering time or talent (or eventually, money and supplies), should send an e-mail to Norman at

"No gesture is too small!" says Norman. "We need as much help and support as possible."