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[header]

Children like tot lot ... a lot

Moonlight Beach site gets unofficial opening tomorrow

Read the original story by Elena Gaona 
Staff Wwriter The San Diego Union Tribune 

ENCINITAS – On the third day it was open, Allison Wylot was on her fourth visit to the new playground at Moonlight Beach with her kids.

"I like the twirly slide," said her son, 5-year-old Kevin Wylot, before running off to push his 2-year-old sister, Shannon, on the swings.

Families this week crowded the tot lot, which opened Monday and gets unofficially dedicated by residents tomorrow morning.

The city declined to have an official ceremony for the .3-acre lot, saying it is simply an added amenity to an existing park, at the west end of Encinitas Boulevard.

But some Encinitas residents are having their own celebration tomorrow at 10:30 a.m., said Dave Skelly, who along with hundreds of other supporters fought for the playground for about 10 years.

"We thought the community should open it anyway," Skelly said.

Residents chipped in to buy cake and refreshments for the casual ceremony, where they plan to have kids play tug of war with yellow tape that when broken will symbolize the controversial park's acceptance.

Children climbed, chased, laughed and landed with few scratches this week at the playground, which includes a spongy Astroturf ground and is the city's first beach facility especially for kids.

The playground is part of the state-approved Moonlight Beach Master Plan, which was adopted in 1990 and revised five years later, but some neighbors didn't want it there because of the potential noise.

The City Council also discussed whether to go ahead with construction because environmental studies associated with the master plan were not finished. The hydrology and traffic studies explored restoring riparian habitats near the playground, but in the end the studies suggested that the restoration was not cost-effective.

The council approved the park in July, and construction was completed this week. The park cost $167,000, city staff members said.

For the children playing there now, the playground is a magical place.

"Daddy, help me get on the mushrooms," 3-year-old Sophie Wolf asked her father, William Wolf, a local musician.

Sophie's "mushrooms," small staggered brown plastic stools, were a popular spot. So were the curving slides and the red rubber climbing walls. And there was a line of kids waiting for rides on the swaying seahorse and dolphin.

"There's a lot more for her to do here now," Wolf said. "The kids are worn out by the time they get home."

Parents said the playground's location is what makes it special. The tot lot includes two colorful tarps that shade the play equipment and a view of the beach, snack bar, picnic tables and volleyball courts.

"It looks like it's going to be a crowded park," said city employee Kathy Weldon, who visited the park as a mom and waited for a seahorse with her son Troy, 2.

"To be at the park and the beach at the same time, it's perfect," Weldon said.

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