Helen Diller Playground is San Francisco’s latest inclusive playground

Helen Diller Playground, a new inclusive playground in San Francisco.

With the help and generous donation of more than $1.5 million from the Mercer Fund in honor of San Francisco Bay Area philanthropist Helen Diller, together with funding from the San Francisco 2008 Clean and Safe Neighborhood Parks Bond and the San Francisco’s General Fund, major renovation of the Dolores Park Playground was completed on March 31st, 2012 and the Helen Diller Playground OPENED!

The playground has the following features:

The preschool area:

  • Climbing: an easy set of stairs; a rubber incline on one side of the slide; a looped climbing pole, and a rock climbing wall.
  • A wheelchair accessible boat built into the hillside
  • Balancing and crawling activities including a variety of spinners, stepping pods, spring toys and spring see saws.
  • A sound garden

A Sand Area for all Ages:

The sand area is surrounded by boulders and natural elements that the children can use to sit on and construct on. The trees in the area provide afternoon shade. The raised edge of the sand box border provide seating for those that choose not to sit in the sand. Accessibility to the play elements is provided via an elevated sand table and also by transfer into the sand box.

School Age Play Area:

Play Mound:  The top of this 10 foot high mound is access via an accessible sidewalk and an elevated bridge. At one end of the bridge near the stairs to the Super Slide is seating that overlooks the play environment. The top of the mound is accessible to persons with mobility impairments and provides the opportunity to be part of the play at a high elevation. There is also an accessible slide that follows the slope of the mound. Children can crawl up and roll down while steps provide easy access back to the top. A series of climbing ropes are anchored to the rubber surfacing to offer hand support while climbing up the slope. A series of curved steel tubes provide a combination of climbing and sliding opportunities.  One section of the mound has been removed as if a “slice of pie” has been taken from the mound. The retaining walls on the sides of the opening is a climbing wall and enclosed with a climbing net.  The combination of climbing opportunities present on the play mound provides a great variety of graduated levels of challenge so that climbers of all levels of experience may achieve success. Boulders and vegetation are used on the back side of the mound to provide a variety of sensory experiences and to blend the mound with its surrounding environment.

Wood Cluster Climber: This climber doubles as a work of art and a climber. Children play at the base of the form among the timber towers and climb using carved hand and foot-holds.

An Accessible Shipwrecked Boat

A variety of swings and additional climbing opportunities

You can read more about all of the features and how they are developmentally appropriate.  Everything that was added to the playground was done intentionally.

The playground is located in Mission Dolores Park.  The playground is bounded by Church, Dolores, 18th, and 20th streets. The Muni Metro J-Church Line runs along its western edge.

Here are a variety of videos that give you an idea what the playground offers.  The first is a video from San Fransico’s Parks and documents the Grand Opening of the playground.


The second video has Helen Diller’s daughter talking about the development of the playground–$3m and 5 years to make it happen.

Next are two very short videos that show the two slides on the mound in action:

Here is a one minute video that shows the Sound Garden and a little of the preschool play area:

The final video is only for the die-hard playground designers and fans.  It is a 16-minute video that shows the construction of the playground.

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