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Huntington Beach unveils new playground in Central Park West

Kids test out the rope-tunnel bridge at the new children's Central Park Playground in Huntington Beach.
Kids test out the rope-tunnel bridge high above the ground at the new children’s Central Park Playground during a ribbon-cutting ceremony Thursday afternoon in Huntington Beach.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

Amaura Mejia says she can envision her children growing up enjoying the new play area in Central Park West.

The Huntington Beach resident brought Gianna, 3, and Elijah, 1, to the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the park’s playground on Thursday afternoon.

“I don’t know if we’ll try this tall stuff anytime soon, but it looks like fun,” Mejia said, scoping out features like a rope tunnel, giant jungle gym and two zip lines.

“The little obstacle course is nice because it has older kid elements in a smaller, safer space,” Mejia said. “They really liked that and they went for it, more than I anticipated.”

Huntington Beach officials see the playground, located between the Huntington Beach Disc Golf Course and Kathy May’s Lakeview Cafe, as fun for all ages. It was approved by the City Council in late 2020.

Chris Slama, the city’s director of community and library services, said that Dave Bang Associates and Creative Contractors constructed the playground. He added that it came in slightly under the $1.2 million budgeted for it.

The playground also features a set-apart area intended for younger children like Mejia’s.

City officials, including Mayor Barbara Delgleize, in yellow, celebrate opening the Central Park Playground.
City officials, including Mayor Barbara Delgleize, in yellow, celebrate opening the new children’s Central Park Playground with a ribbon-cutting ceremony Thursday afternoon in Huntington Beach.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

Slama said part of the idea of the complex was to incorporate the idea of risk-based play.

“There’s been a lot of studies that show that risk-based play forces children to take a little bit of a risk, without it actually being dangerous,” Slama said. “It makes them think about every next move. I’ve already heard a couple of them here playing the ‘hot lava’ game, where they have to get from the sand down the hill without touching the surface. It really engages them creatively, and emotionally too. It’s really good for development for kids.”

Mayor Barbara Delgleize and City Council members Kim Carr and Natalie Moser joined in the festivities, as did Assemblywoman Janet Nguyen. Nguyen, who lives in Huntington Beach, said she could already tell the playground will be a hit with her two boys, ages 8 and 11.

Delgleize said she would have enjoyed a playground like this when she was younger.

Kids test out the zip line at the new children's Central Park Playground in Huntington Beach.
Kids test out the zip line at the new children’s Central Park Playground Thursday afternoon in Huntington Beach.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

“If my mother were here, she would have said, ‘Oh, my God, get my daughter up there,’” Delgleize said. “I used to climb a lot of trees, and it had no safety at all. Anyway, I made it up and I made it down.

“A playground with the unique and innovative design like this one is a destination for sure, and very popular and fun for our city,” she continued. “This one-of-a-kind experience is a focal point for the community, and a place kids will want to come again and again.”

Slama said the Huntington Beach City Council approved a playground equipment priority list in 2018, prioritizing improvements at 27 different locations throughout the city. Since then, staff has been able to tackle about half of the playgrounds.

Giorgio Ruocco, 4, seemed to enjoy himself Thursday. He was able to climb to the top of the playground’s tree house.

“It was a small playground that was pretty dilapidated,” said Ruocco’s grandmother, Denise Ruocco, of the previous playground at the site. “We’ve been waiting for this for a long time. It’s wonderful.”

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