Playground Reopens with Fresh Features
The lower half of Barney Schwartz Park reopened this winter with a new playground. And, I gotta say, it’s pretty awesome. Boasting a new big kid area and tot lot, our favorite features so far are the shade structures (ok, so maybe that’s just a mommy fave) a rustic log tunnel, adventurous climbing rocks and a large dual slide.
At 15 years old, the playground had been looking pretty shabby lately with its torn climbing netting and a boarded-up platform where kids climbed up to nothing.
But the new equipment is bright, fun and offers a fairly diverse set of play structures. Among them are some really great nature-inspired tree stump steps, large boulders connecting the climbing decks and a fun ring twister to stand on and spin. The kids were also excited to try out the cascade climber, which features foothold cutouts on a series of panels to encourage kids to climb up, down and sideways.
I also love the small details in the craftsmanship of the play equipment, like the subtly placed fossil imprints of bugs and fish on the climbing rocks and a little carved mouse nesting in a knothole on top of the hand-painted log tunnel.
I was excited to see this lower playground redo, but also a little sad. Because, memories. (cue that Barbara Streisand song). It was the first park I brought my now four-year-old to, taking mama/baby selfies on the bucket swings and pics each summer in the iconic purple tunnel. The old playground was also home to my very first solo outing with two babies. Charged with the responsibility of our toddler and her newborn brother,
I hauled a double stroller packed with half the contents of the baby’s room to the playground. All the while hoping big sister could navigate the old tot lot by herself while I was marooned on a nearby bench under a nursing baby. And she did fine! Thus, the old park was the backdrop for one of my first (of many) lessons in being a mom of two.
But now, there’s all the latest stuff to play on and new memories to make, so there’s no time for tears. Well, maybe just a few.
WHO WAS BARNEY SCHWARTZ
Barney Schwartz Park was named after the late Barney Schwartz who served as Paso Robles’ mayor for two decades, starting in 1962. Born in Ohio, Schwartz came to Paso Robles in 1949 to set up a retraining institute in the reserves at Camp Roberts in San Miguel, according to a newspaper clipping in the then-North County Journal.
Under his leadership as mayor, city leaders said Schwartz demonstrated a vibrant, pioneering spirit that helped Paso Robles thrive in the 1960s, ‘70s and ‘80s. To secure city water resources, creating jobs and championing city tourism were touted among his many accomplishments. Schwartz also made strategic moves for city growth, such as annexing the Paso Robles Airport. He served on the Paso Robles City Council with his late brother, Dale. Together, they also owned KPRL Radio and founded the Paso Robles Golf & Country Club.
In 1982, Barney Schwartz retired as mayor and, later that year, passed away from lung cancer at age 71. City Park was filled with 250 people for his memorial. Published in the event’s program was Schwartz’s personal motto: “Remember, always say something nice about somebody.”
The city opened Barney Schwartz Park in 2002 to celebrate his legacy by creating a place where people could find joy in every day. It has 38 acres of sports fields, concession stands, two distinct upper and lower playgrounds, picnic areas and a lake with turtles and ducks.