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Montara Street Closes For Neighborhood Kids

Two moms do what it takes to get Montara kids playing outside in their neighborhood.

There were plenty of smiling faces yesterday on the third day of the first annual Montara Street Camp (MSC), where Farallone Avenue in Montara, between 10th and 11th streets, was closed to traffic from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. to provide an activity space for 30 neighborhood children ages 5 and up.

The weeklong camp is organized by two Montara moms, Sarah Bunkin and Karen Hoffman, who are hoping to encourage more kids to play freely in their Montara neighborhoods.

“Our neighborhood kids go to four or five different schools, are busy after school with different activities, and most are not yet allowed to play in areas other than their backyards,” said Bunkin. “At some point, though, as our kids grow up, we would like to see them walking to one another's homes, riding their bikes and exploring their neighborhood.”

And that's just what Bunkin and Hoffman have the kids doing all weeklong. After making colorful name tags on the first day, the kids have tried their hand at origami, had room to create an 80 square hopscotch board, played Four Square and Simon Says, took a nature walk, and played with a huge parachute in the middle of the street. More "free-range" activities are lined up for today and tomorrow the last day of camp, like water play, shaving cream throw, freeze dance, a nature art project, and a mystery bag skit.

Bunkin and Hoffman came up with the idea for their street camp after reading the book "Free Range Kids" by Lenore Skenazy. They also checked out the Free Range and Playborhood blogs and that's when they came across Camp Iris Way in Palo Alto, which ultimately inspired the idea for Montara Street Camp.  

Camp Iris Way also takes place in the street, it's in its third year and has been successful in bringing neighbors closer, encouraging kids to play safely together, explains Bunkin, who contacted the organizers for some ideas. 

Before they knew it, the Camp Iris Way organizers were helping Bunkin and Hoffman by making their camp planning information public and available online and providing advice about obtaining the street closure permit.  

They worked to obtain permit approval from the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office, San Mateo County Department of Public Works, and California Highway Patrol to close a portion of the Montara street for the camp.

“We have no sidewalks in Montara. The streets are narrow," said Bunkin. "So we want cars to be aware that they need to slow down because kids use our streets, too. As parents we need to teach our kids how to be responsible and safe when outside, but we also want to set a culture in our neighborhood that we support active kids. We are hoping this neighborhood camp, on a neighborhood street will help to create this atmosphere.”

Bunkin and Hoffman say they both appreciate the efforts of the city in helping them get their permit. They also appreciate the support from the community. One neighbor offered to help the kids plant a neighborhood garden and another said she loved the idea and couldn't wait to see the kids outside playing, said Bunkin. 

Two other Montara moms, Becca Weber and Patricia Bodas, are helping as parent supervisors and there are 10 counselors and one head counselor, Lily Hall, who will be a junior at Half Moon Bay High School next year, assisting with the 30 campers as well.

"Lily is a phenomenal counselor," said parent supervisor Weber. "She teaches the kids how to play respectfully, they listen to her and are having fun."

Additional reporting by Christa Bigue

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