Ambitious capital campaign will raise $130 million in private funds to complete critical Forest Park restoration projects and expand the Park’s endowment for long-term care
To date, Forest Park Forever has raised $116.9 million in private gifts toward this goal
ST. LOUIS, October 2, 2015, 9 p.m. – Forest Park Forever has announced a major, multi-year fundraising initiative called Forever: The Campaign for Forest Park’s Future. With a goal of raising $130 million in private funds, the Forever campaign has two central goals:
- Complete $30 million in strategic restoration projects called for in the Forest Park Master Plan
- Expand Forest Park Forever’s endowment by $100 million, ensuring that the Park can be cared for at the level it needs, today and in the coming decades
This evening at the Emerson Grand Basin, Forest Park Forever announced that it has raised $116.9 million in private gifts toward the organization’s $130 million goal. This marks Forest Park Forever’s most ambitious fundraising effort in the Park’s history.
“Forest Park is the St. Louis region’s greatest civic treasure,” said Lesley S. Hoffarth, P.E., President and Executive Director of Forest Park Forever, the private nonprofit conservancy that partners with the City of St. Louis to care for the Park. “For generations, many millions of St. Louisans and visitors have lived some of their greatest moments right here in Forest Park. At this critical juncture in the Park’s history, Forest Park Forever is committed to securing the future of this beloved destination. The Forever campaign will significantly improve Forest Park for today’s visitors, while also ensuring that the Park will remain beautiful and welcoming for our children and our children’s children.”
Between 1995 and 2003, Forest Park Forever and the City of St. Louis raised over $100 million to restore Forest Park to its place as a community jewel. This effort restored some of the most iconic areas of the Park, including the Grand Basin, the Jewel Box, the World’s Fair Pavilion and the Boathouse.
During the years that followed, Forest Park Forever expanded its role in Forest Park, hiring a team of horticulturists and gardeners to provide daily landscaping maintenance around those structures and areas that private dollars rebuilt, as well as care for 170 acres of the Park’s Nature Reserves.
In 2011, the City of St. Louis and Forest Park Forever forged a new cooperative maintenance agreement for Forest Park that enhances their unique, nationally lauded public-private partnership. This agreement has expanded Forest Park Forever’s role in caring for the Park and planning for its future and secured 30 years of City funding for the Park through a bond agreement.
As part of this new cooperative maintenance agreement, Forest Park Forever committed to raising $30 million in private funds for restoration and improvement projects called for in the Forest Park Master Plan and raising an additional $100 million in private funds for its endowment. To do so, Forest Park Forever began planning the Forever campaign in 2012.
Forever Campaign Initiatives
The Forever campaign builds on successes from recent decades and positions Forest Park to truly thrive in this new century and beyond.
The Park restoration and improvement projects within the Forever campaign focus on four key areas:
- Renewed Landscapes and Waterways: On the Park’s eastern side, complete the connections of the Park’s waterway system, revitalize its natural areas and complete the Park’s wildlife corridor; rebuild Liberal Arts Bridge (between the Muny and the Boathouse), create enhanced water features beneath it and create a new meadow to its south
- Revitalized Recreation and Amenities: Build an innovative new natural playscape; rebuild and extend paths and trails for runners, walkers and cyclists; further improve the popular ball fields at Aviation Field, with new irrigation and more lighting for extended evening use; reconfigure Central Fields so that more recreational activities can take place at once; renovate and modernize restrooms and drinking fountains (enabling more to be open year round); create welcoming gathering plazas around select restrooms
- Renovated Community Event Spaces: Rebuild and transform the Upper Muny Lot (introduced as the more vibrant and sustainable Festival & Parking Plaza in 2015); rebuild Central Fields so that it’s not only better equipped to host athletic games but also large community events like the Great Forest Park Balloon Race and LouFest
- Improved Safety, Access and Circulation: Rebuild the Park’s heavily used roadways and install safe and accessible sidewalks, including in those areas leading to the Saint Louis Zoo and Saint Louis Art Museum; increase safety, accessibility and orientation for the Park’s 13 million annual visitors, including pedestrians and bicyclists (comprehensive new way-finding system introduced in 2014; Forestparkmap.org launched in 2015)
By expanding the endowment for the Park, Forest Park Forever will be able to close a current gap in the annual funds needed for Park maintenance, as well as improve visitor services and educational opportunities. A study commissioned in 2008 by Civic Progress and the Regional Business Council indicated that in order to maintain Forest Park at its proper level — so that the Park would not slip back into disrepair — the annual budget needed to be at least $15 million, up from the $10 million that was able to be committed when the study was done. This $5 million annual increase will be covered by Forest Park Forever’s expanded endowment.
“The Forever campaign is an essential initiative for a thriving St. Louis,” said Thomas R. Collins, Chairman of the Forest Park Forever Board of Directors. “As Forest Park has become more beloved and beneficial to the community with each passing year, there are now increased demands on the Park’s resources. Funds raised will enable Forest Park to continue improving in essential ways — better roads, revitalized event spaces, a new playscape — while ensuring that this great civic asset never slips back into the disrepair of last century.”
Forever: The Campaign for Forest Park’s Future is led by Honorary Campaign Chair Jack C. Taylor and Campaign Chair John H. Ferring IV. The Forever Campaign Cabinet is comprised of Anne O’Connell Albrecht, Thomas R. Collins, Steven L. Finerty, Ann Liberman, James F. Mann, Sue McCollum and Lawrence E. Thomas.
“We are truly inspired by the leadership and generosity of the early donors who have enabled the Forever campaign to raise more than $116 million toward our $130 million goal,” said Campaign Chair John H. Ferring IV. “Forest Park has become one of the country’s greatest public parks, and one of the region’s greatest gems, because community members continue stepping forward to support it. We are grateful to our donors for the campaign’s remarkable progress thus far and look forward to achieving our goal for the good of the Park and the entire region.”
“Forest Park is everyone’s park,” said Mayor Francis G. Slay. “It is a treasured community asset enjoyed by citizens and visitors of every background and interest, every day of the year. It is impressive and inspiring to see the trajectory of the Forever campaign, which will further strengthen Forest Park Forever’s strong partnership with the City of St. Louis for a new era."
“This is an exciting time for Forest Park and its millions of annual visitors,” said Greg Hayes, Director of St. Louis City’s Department of Parks, Recreation and Forestry. “Our partnership with Forest Park Forever has entered a strong new era. The Forever campaign will make a significant impact on stretching City dollars in a way that helps keep Forest Park such a landmark destination, while also enabling our department to continue strong stewardship of more than 100 other parks throughout St. Louis City.”
The community is invited to learn about Forever: The Campaign for Forest Park’s Future at theforevercampaign.org. Park advocates and visitors can also submit their own photos and testimonials about their love for Forest Park at whyforever.org or by using the hashtag #whyforever on Twitter and Instagram.
A note for media: High-res renderings are available at theforevercampaign.org/media.
About Forest Park Forever
Founded in 1986, Forest Park Forever is a private nonprofit conservancy that works in partnership with the City of St. Louis and the Department of Parks, Recreation and Forestry to restore, maintain and sustain Forest Park as one of America’s greatest urban public parks.
Along with the City of St. Louis, Forest Park Forever raised $100 million between 1995 and 2003 and dramatically restored many landmark destinations in Forest Park, including the Emerson Grand Basin, the Boathouse and the Jewel Box.
Today, Forest Park Forever maintains Forest Park with the City of St. Louis; raises funds for and helps manage capital restoration projects called for in the Forest Park Master Plan; delivers experiential educational opportunities to teachers, students and adults; and provides information and guides for the Park’s 13 million annual visitors. Not part of the Zoo-Museum Tax District, Forest Park Forever is supported by private donations from throughout the community, including its 7,000 members, 1,100 volunteers and many leading community and corporate partners.