It’s down to the wire for the Solano Playlot.
In a national contest that ends October 15, the playground in the North and East neighborhood has a shot at winning $25,000 worth of new equipment. Since voting began on September 28, Solano has been hovering around fourth place—but only the top three finalists will snag the grand prize, a set of portable playground equipment. Organizers are hoping that over the next few days, a surge of new online votes from the general public will push the playground into one of the top spots.
The Playlot, located at the corner of 38th street and Solano Avenue, was selected as one of ten finalists from a pool of over 650 entrants in a contest sponsored by KaBOOM!—a non-profit dedicated to creating accessible playspaces for children nationwide—and Parents magazine.
“It’s a wonderful contest, it’s wonderful equipment, and we really see that this is a great space for it because it’s so consistent with the vision we have of the park,” said Melanie Myers, founding member of the grassroots organization, Solano PLAY, which is set to renovate the playlot.
Once the park was nominated, community members and fans who registered on the site helped gain points for Solano by completing various tasks. These included creating an event in the park; rating the park with Kaboom!’s system; posting a comment on the Solano Playlot entry page; and uploading photographs, all for varying point values. The points received during this initial round counted for half of the score to determine finalists.
Neighbors of the park, like Amalia Pereira, have banded together with the support of the city of Richmond not only to vote in the contest, but also to make physical changes to the park.
City workers installed new gates and helped Solano PLAY apply for additional funding. Meanwhile, community members sifted hazards like glass from the sand and painted the old structures.
Pereira said the effort has been transformative, both for her and for the neighborhood.
“For me it’s been symbolic and it will always be, of building community—making it worthwhile to live here,” she said. “It’s been a great experience getting to know Richmond and really feeling a part of my neighborhood.”
In addition to the potential winnings from the contest, the organization recently received a $10,000 grant from First 5 California (a state-funded organization that funds health and educational programming for young children) that Myers says will go toward a “toddler hill” complete with slides.
Myers said she is encouraged by the progress.
“Even though this park isn’t anywhere close to what it will be in terms of a magnet and center of our community, we’re starting to see community being built and starting to see changes happening,” she said. “All of us are so much more connected, and that’s an amazing thing in itself.”