In the latest Around Town column, news about plans to reopen the popular Magical Bridge playground in Palo Alto, why Santa Clara County is setting up ballot drop boxes in two's and results of this year's Bike to Wherever Days.
THE MAGIC TOUCH ... Some parents in Palo Alto and beyond were understandably disappointed earlier this month when the city announced that it excluded Magical Bridge from its playgrounds reopening plan. Since the Oct. 5 announcement, the city moved ahead with reopening all other playgrounds and furnishing them with signs explaining the new social distancing rules. But while Magical Bridge remains closed, the city announced this week that it plans to reopen the popular Mitchell Park attraction in mid-November, if not sooner. City Manager Ed Shikada also said that the city is working on a plan to keep the playground staffed by redeploying city employees from other facilities. "There are a few steps that need to get covered in order to both handle redeployments and to work with volunteers to make sure it's handled with training and safety protocols in place, and have that facility open as quickly as possible," Shikada said at the Oct. 19 City Council meeting. The city, he said, has been working on its reopening plan with the Magical Bridge Foundation, a nonprofit that advocates for the establishment of playgrounds accessible to children and adults of all abilities. Shikada also noted that because the other playgrounds are not staffed by the city, it is up to adults who visit the playgrounds with their children to make sure everyone is playing safely. "We want to ensure the community members are aware that it is everyone's responsibility to ensure that these play structures and playgrounds are used with a focus on safety and according to posted signage rules," Shikada said.
DON'T THINK TWICE ... When you turn in your completed election ballot to a drop box in Santa Clara County, you won't see just one but two boxes standing side by side. While the sight has raised questions and concerns with some community members, there's no need to fret. The Registrar of Voters is using old drop boxes and new ones debuting this election season to handle the expected influx of ballots leading up to Nov. 3. Voters can drop off their sealed envelope in either box, which the county registrar promises will be safely retrieved by Registrar of Voters workers and returned to the office to be processed and counted. The front of the new boxes include the words "Official Ballot Drop Box" and the Santa Clara County seal that features a rising sun overlooking a bridge. The old boxes have "Ballot Drop-Off" in large blue text at the front and the county seal in the bottom corner. The county has set up drop boxes in 22 locations across the county including four in Palo Alto at Palo Alto High, the Palo Alto Library's Rinconada branch, City Hall and Mitchell Park Community Center.
GOING ALONG FOR THE RIDE ... Bike to Work Day has been a highly anticipated annual celebration throughout the Bay Area for years, but the COVID-19 pandemic forced organizers of the unofficial holiday originally scheduled for May 14 to readapt. It turned into a Bike to Wherever Days celebrated throughout September, with a special one-day event on Sept. 24. Riders were encouraged to ride their bicycles not only to work, but to parks, to run errands, or other activities. More than 3,600 riders joined across the Bay Area, matching previous years' numbers, according to the Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition and Metropolitan Transportation Commission. Despite the poor air quality due to fires in and around the Bay Area, participants from every Bay Area county participated in the event. Overall, adjusted for population, Santa Clara County had the largest percentage of riders. "Even with the challenges, Bay Area residents got out and showed how important biking is," MTC Chair Scott Hagerty said in the agency's blog. "It bodes well for biking as an everyday mode for people to get to destinations, which helps reduce greenhouses gases, while improving physical and mental health."