Pixie Park Goes Back to its Roots

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This beloved children’s playground is getting a new look with retro appeal, hearkening back to its founding.

On nearly any day of the year, you can count on hearing children’s laughter and the squeak of swings coming from somewhere up on the hillside above  Marin Art & Garden Center. If you follow the sounds up the path and around the Giant Sequoia, you find yourself at Pixie Park. For the past six months, however, you’d be hearing the grind of heavy machinery instead, as the park has been undergoing a major renovation that will restore many of the features that have made it a favorite spot for families since 1952.

The Park was established under the leadership of Elizabeth Terwilliger, a familiar name to almost anyone who grew up in Marin. Mrs. T, a naturalist and volunteer at the Marin Art & Garden Center, worked with the American Association of University Women (AAUW) to help create a place where volunteers’ children could play while they were at the Center. Sepha Evers donated funds for the construction of the Pavilion, which her husband, architect Albert Evers, designed to honor their son who was killed in World War II.

Royston’s plan for the playground, 1958

As a safe, enclosed space, the new playground was immediately a success and membership grew rapidly; the group incorporated as Pixie Parents in 1957 to continue to fundraise and improve the park. That same year, the group brought in noted landscape architect Robert Royston to redesign the play area, giving it a distinctive mid-century look with a number of modernist play structures and its unique splash pad water play area. Its naturalistic lines follow the curves of the oak-shaded hillside and reflect the surrounding landscape.

Generations of children have now enjoyed the park’s charms. It continues to function as a volunteer-run cooperative playground for children age six and younger; because it is fenced and gated, children are free to play and parents can relax knowing they can’t wander off. Families fulfill their membership by volunteering their time for Pixie’s various events and fundraisers.

Naturally, some of the features that made the playground special have been lost over time, and the site itself began to suffer from erosion and wear. In 2018, the Pixie Parents began a major fundraiser to restore the park’s characteristic attractions, and the renovation project broke ground in October 2019. Local landscape architect Holly Selvig has designed the new plan, which also brings the playground in line with ADA requirements so children of all abilities will be able to enjoy its slides, sand and shaded spaces.

Although the shelter in place order did delay the work on the site for some weeks, construction has now resumed and the project is on track to finish this summer. All of us in the Marin Art & Garden Center community are looking forward to a grand reopening when the time comes.

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