Published Oct. 4, 2023
BY NICOLE MIRSKI
Dedicated to improving Forest Hill Park through natural play, Barry and Jeanne Frew, the program co-directors, along with recent graduates of Leadership Carmel, a nine-month developmental program designed to inspire current and future leaders in Carmel-by-the-Sea and its surrounding areas, have completed the Forest Hill Park project as of the ribbon cutting event Sept. 28.
The park, located on 3026 Junipero St. and known to some as “Woodchip Park,” is the only area with classic playground structures in Carmel, which inspired Leadership Carmel members to pitch and plan this project to create a more inclusive environment.
“We wanted to bring in inclusive play structures,” says Emily Garay, a member of Leadership Carmel who proposed the park improvement project. “The result now has exceeded my personal expectations.”
Among other additions, a Braille wall has been added to the park, improving the inclusivity of the park while also educating children who might not know what blindness is or what people with low vision use to communicate.
“Items like the Braille board bring in different kids, and it opens the park up for children who might not normally think there was anything in a public park they could enjoy,” says Bill Kerr, another recent graduate of Leadership Carmel who worked on this project.
The made-to-order Braille board has been positively viewed by both the children and parents who visit the park.
“It’s a great thing to have,” says Chris Saunders, the father of a 4-year-old. “I’d like to see that in more places,”
More upgrades include two log clusters designed so parents can sit closer and watch their children, but many kids have already been seen playing on it. A 600-pound log tunnel has also been added to the center of the park, creating a fun environment while providing a natural feel.
Located in a grove of redwood trees, a stump circle was made completely out of wood from trees that fell in the winter storms earlier this year. The use of recycled wood enhances the natural feel of the playground while providing an opportunity for educational activities.
“This is his drumming circle,” says a local mother of a 2-year-old, referring to the circle where her son bangs on a stump with sticks. “He loves this. We were at a 4-year-old’s birthday party here and all the kids were drumming around, they loved it.”
With help from the Forest and Beach Commision and Public Works, the nine-month program was able to complete the construction of the project within the span of one week. Carmel Leadership raised around $30,000 including a grant from both the city and the Rotary Club of Carmel-by-the-Sea, and the project cost around $25,000, but they benefited from donations from local artists and businesses.
The improvements made at the Forest Hill Park have already been used and enjoyed by many.