Rooted in Inclusion: Designing a Diverse Park Experience for All

Right in the heart of Silicon Valley you’ll find Muwékma Park, a wonderful new recreation space for the community of Sunnyvale provided by the Public/Private Partnership of the Irvine Company Apartment Communities in association with the City of Sunnyvale.*

The name of the park honors the Muwékma Ohlone Tribe which is comprised of surviving Native Americans with ancestral lineages aboriginal to the San Francisco Bay region. They have traced their ancestry through the Spanish missions (Dolores, Santa Clara, and San Jose) and were also members of the historic federally recognized Verona Band of Alameda County.

EPTDESIGN led the design process for the 6.5-acre park which entailed several community workshops resulting in a park which includes a large, inclusive playground, walking trails, a water feature, picnic areas, and a dog park — all anchored by a grove of more than 65 existing redwood and ash trees.

Listening to the community, stakeholders, and experts.

EPTDESIGN led three community outreach programs to gather insight into what the community’s wants and needs were for the park. Stakeholders and experts in parks chimed in. Due to its size, and proximity to three regional sports parks which have soccer and football fields, pickleball courts, and basketball courts, the city’s parks plans called for Muwékma Park to serve as a community park, offering people who live near it the chance to walk or ride a bike to the park.

Beyond the playground, Muwékma Park offers a network of walking trails that wind through the park’s green spaces, encouraging visitors to explore and connect with nature. Passive picnic areas provide quiet spots for families and friends to enjoy leisurely moments amidst the greenery. The winding pathways, inclusive play equipment, and selection of plants all contribute to the park’s vibrant character.

According to Principal and lead designer Steve Burkel, “One of the key elements in the design was preservation of a significant number of existing redwood trees to serve as the framework for the park and playground areas. Within the park, over 55 redwoods were protected in place and several others were boxed and relocated throughout the park to create a significant ‘day one’ impact for the project.”

In total, over 250 trees were maintained throughout the entire community including several evergreen ash trees, redwoods, and stone pines that were boxed and relocated throughout the site. EPTDESIGN worked closely with the entire team to carefully choreograph the selection, maintenance, boxing, protection, and replanting of the trees to ensure their health and success for decades to come.

Maintaining this number of existing, mature trees in place required a significant investment and commitment from the Irvine Company and City of Sunnyvale. In turn, the trees provide a wide variety of benefits for this park including significant shade, beauty, texture, and sanctuary for both people and wildlife, and significant environment benefits. Coast Redwoods absorb more CO2 than any other tree and produce more oxygen than any single tree by a significant margin. That said, by our calculations, protecting these 250 trees in place stores over 1,500 tons of carbon that would have been released into the atmosphere had they been removed. Additionally, they produce over 4,000 tons of oxygen — enough for over 4M people to breathe fresh, clean air in one day. These statistics illustrate the unseen value and impact of maintaining and protecting these beautiful trees in place for decades to come.*

A park for everyone.

Of great importance to the overall design was the ability for all people to enjoy the park. The park’s design and amenities cater to all ages, abilities, and backgrounds, fostering an environment where all are welcome.

The design incorporates an inclusive playground with a large custom designed “tree house” inspired play structure that weaves around several existing “mother” redwoods celebrating the natural landscape, and offering a unique play experience.

Key to this inclusivity is wheelchair accessibility throughout the play area, enabling children and caregivers of all abilities to interact and enjoy panoramic views of the redwoods and surrounding community. Our collaboration with the city and playground experts at Ross Recreation and Landscape Structures was instrumental in creating spaces within the park that engage individuals of all ages and abilities, providing unique sensory, physical, and mental experiences. This commitment to inclusivity ensures that the park remains a welcoming and engaging space for everyone.

Serving as a curator of landscape.

At EPTDESIGN, we very much feel we are stewards of the land, that our role is to preserve and protect natural environments, and to augment those environments with plantings, places, and spaces that enrich the lives of all who visit them. Through careful selection, organization, and structure, we love to create the kinds of places where memories and moments unfold.


City of Sunnyvale – File #: 22-0698 (

USDA Forest Service via Carbon Tree Calculator