Magical Bridge Playground
Play & Playground Magazine
May 19, 2014
By Rita Watts

Magical Bridge Playground is a fully-inclusive public park to be built in Palo Alto's Mitchell Park. Five years ago, Olenka Villarreal made Barbara and her team aware that a child in a wheelchair rarely (if ever) experiences the joy and magic of a tree house. Working under the umbrella of a Palo Alto non-profit organization, Friends of the Palo Alto Parks, Olenka and her team have worked tirelessly for five years to create this public park for children and families of ALL abilities, including those living with autism, visual impairment, mobility and sensory issues. Together, their team has raised $3.1 million and they are delighted to have helped along the way – not only by donating much of Barbara's design time but also a Barbara Butler playhouse that was auctioned in 2010 with 100% of the proceeds going to The Magical Bridge Playground fund.

As part of the partnership, the City of Palo Alto donated the land, staff and architect to help see the project become a reality. Palo Alto will also hold several public meetings for community input. The ball is rolling and they hope to have the historic groundbreaking in June 2014. Olenka asked Barbara to design a wheelchair accessible Playhouse, Treehouse & Stage which promises to be first of its kind. While Barbara has designed and built many public play structures around the country, she has never had the chance to do one here in the Bay Area. She is especially fond of this project because of its inclusive theme – this is a public park that will be fun and meaningful for kids & parents of all abilities.


San Francisco builder Barbara Butler makes childhood fantasies come to life with her magical play houses. A Butler design is no ordinary playhouse. Seeming sprung from the pages of Alice in Wonderland, they boast whimsical features such as turrets, rock-climbing towers, flying bridges and sliding trap doors.

Barbara hand-designs and crafts her incredibly elaborate play structures for children combining childhood fantasies with architectural know-how to create a world of enchantment right in your own backyard. Butler's client list includes Robert Redford, Will Smith & Jada Pinket-Smith, Kevin Kline & Phoebe Cates, and Walt Disney Productions. The structures range from small, cozy cabins to big tree houses to large play forts complete with monkey bars, rope swings, bridges anything the imagination can dream up.

Barbara Butler is committed to creating eco-friendly, strong, safe and durable play structures that are made from natural renewable resources for the next generation to play on. She makes green choices in her materials, design and construction.In addition, she also helps her clients recycle old structures when their kids grow up by cleaning and refinishing them and arranging donations and second hand sales. Barbara also makes a great expert voice for safe, backyard play!

Children today experience higher levels of stress and anxiety than ever before.  A child’s schedule is jam packed with homework assignments, Little League, piano practices and chores.  Barbara feels that kids need their own special space where they can unwind and de-stress.  Barbara helps combat these stresses by creating a non-adult, magical place where kids can just be kids.

 For Media & Publicity Inquiries, or to arrange an interview, please contact:
Dana Wynn
Sarah Hall Productions, Inc.
145 Hudson Street, Suite 404
New York, NY 10013
Email: Dana at shpny.com
Phone: (212) 597-9200
Fax: (212) 529-3171
Suzanne Butler
Barbara Butler Artist-Builder, Inc.
325 South Maple Avenue, #37
South San Francisco, CA 94080
Email: suzanne@barbarabutler.com
Phone: (415) 864-6840
Fax: (212) 529-3171