City has big plans for parks

St. Louis City Council will hold a public hearing on a five-year plan for the city’s 17 acres of existing parkland and potential development of the Velsicol Chemical site as parkland at its meeting of Tuesday, Jan. 23.

The proposed parks plan is available for viewing on the city’s web site, http://www.stlouismi.com/, or by stopping by city hall to look at a hard copy.

Parks OverviewA survey of 220 St. Louis area residents in 2017 indicated that 95 respondents would like to see expanded “trail systems and walkways” in St. Louis parks. (Additional restrooms finished second with 71 respondents checking that box.)

“Extending the trail within the city and beyond is the top priority, with the connection from Lions Park to Alma as the primary focus,” says the plan.

It’s not expected to be easily accomplished though. “Implementing this plan will be a long and sometimes tedious process that will require cooperation among groups, tenacity in working toward goals and endurance in dealing withy long time tables,” says the plan.

Indeed, the cash-strapped city budgeted just $90,000 a year on parks in 2016-17 fiscal year, plus $45,000 a year for the W.T. Morris Memorial Swimming Pool downtown.

Property would have to be acquired, too, through either donations, easements, leases, licenses or outright purchase, says the plan.

The plan calls for using the river walk at Lions Park on Michigan Avenue near the library as the basis for extending trails and sidewalks all over the city. See the accompanying map for proposed trail locations.

Trail PlanPlanned parks improvements include replacing the playscape at Leppien Park, construction of a boat launch near Lions Park, river bank stabilization at multiple parks, a sign on M-46 for Leppien Park, a pedestrian bridge connecting city hall to Barnum Park, conversion of an unused well house in Clapp Park to a concession stand, new playground equipment in Clapp Park, improved parking and basketball court at Lincoln Park.

The swimming pool would received many improvements, if planners get their way. On the wish list are a wading pool, a “spray park,” a slide on the deep end, additional parking, a patio or deck behind the pool and construction of a new bath house.

The plan also calls for creation of a “historically themed tourist area to coincide with the Historical Society Depot Museum, as well as identify other historical sites for state designation.”

The city works with the school district when it comes to parks and recreation, so Hubble Field at Carrie Knause Elementary School is recommended to receive improvements, too. These include new lighting, new bleachers, a fence along Union Street to stop errant baseballs, additional parking and restrooms that are compliant with the Americans With Disabilities Act.

As for Lions Park, the city would like to acquire property adjacent to the north end for a parking lot. So if you own a house there, the city might want to play let’s make a deal with you.

The most ambitious goal is to develop the Velsicol Chemical site as a park after the EPA finishes the ongoing environmental cleanup. Addition of the 54-acre site would quadruple park space in St. Louis. The plan envisions use of 21 acres for soccer fields and basketball courts, five acres for an amphitheater and nine acres for generic park use. Also wished for are three fishing platforms, a boat launch, and an “educational building.”

The plan also says the city is interested in acquiring property east of the Velsicol site. So if you own a house on North Watson, the city might want to make a deal with you, too.

Velsicol ParkCompleted improvements

The new five-year parks plan succeeds the previous five-year plan, and the city made improvements to five parks during that time.

Leppien Park received shoreline protection work, a new dock, more parking, a new pavilion and new picnic tables.

Barnum Park got a paved parking area, picnic tables, riverbank stabilization and new railing.

Lincoln Park got new play structures and safety surface, more parking, improved accessibility and improved basketball goal.

Penny Park got pavement and a new roof on the pavilion.

Trees were planted in Clapp Park.

Commission members

The Parks and Recreation Commission is composed of seven members: Sally Church, Melissa Allen, Dorthy Trigina, Mary Reed, Steve Larsen and Amanda Kelly. (Allen is also mayor pro-tem of the city council.) Commission members are appointed to serve two-year terms.

If you are interested in serving on the commission, please contact city hall and let them know. Vacancies arise from time to time, and city government is only as good as the people who run it and oversee it.

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