On Thursday, April 14, nearly 300 people gathered at the historic Dennis & Judith Jones Visitor and Education Center for Under the Clock Tower: 2016 State of Forest Park Community Gathering.
This first-of-its-kind event provided a forum for guests to learn a little bit more about Forest Park, even for those already very involved with the Park. The event began with guests interacting with representatives from Forest Park Forever, the City's Department of Parks, Recreation and Forestry (including its special Forest Park Arboriculture Crew) and many of our Park partners. We were thrilled to be joined by our friends at the Saint Louis Art Museum, the Muny, the Saint Louis Zoo, the Missouri History Museum, Great Rivers Greenway, Shakespeare Festival St. Louis, the Saint Louis Science Center, City Cycling Tours, the Boathouse and Flora Conservancy, who together helped paint a full picture of the amazing amenities Forest Park offers.
We were honored that Mayor Francis G. Slay was in attendance to kick off the evening's program, with Fox 2's Jasmine Huda keeping the evening on track by acting as the event's emcee.
Forest Park Forever's President & Executive Director Lesley S. Hoffarth, P.E., and City of St. Louis' Department of Parks, Recreation & Forestry Director Greg Hayes took turns highlighting key Park topics, including connectivity and mobility, trees, safety and security, the Forest Park Master Plan, visitor services and more. Questions from the audience followed the presentation, and a few lucky individuals took home raffle prizes thanks to donations from some of our Park partners.
Attendees were also treated to complimentary sips and bites thanks to the generosity of COM KOM Kombucha, Pi Pizzeria, and Urban Chestnut, who created a special beer in celebration of Forest Park Forever's 30th anniversary. The Forest Park Pilsner can currently be found on draft at Urban Chestnut's Grove Beerhall, and we recommend stopping in for a pint!
A key component of the night's program was the presentation of the annual Keeper of Forest Park Award. This year's two awardees, Eva Lovett and Peter Sortino, are individuals who have offered an extraordinary amount of time and energy for the betterment of Forest Park.
Eva is a dedicated volunteer for Forest Park Forever’s Nature Reserve team. She has been volunteering in the Park's Nature Reserve for many years — longer than all of the current Nature Reserve team has been on staff! She has been here through so many years of plantings and invasive species removal, that she is an excellent source for Nature Reserve history. Her work over the years has certainly improved the Park for the best.
Peter is a long-standing member of the Forest Park Forever Board of Directors and Executive Committee. As busy as Peter is — including through his work as Assistant Vice Chancellor at Washington University in St. Louis — he never seems to say no to any requests to help the Forest Park Forever team thoughtfully shape a project and ultimately improve the Park. Peter’s impact as a relationship-builder has aided Forest Park Forever in developing, fostering and maintaining strong partnerships and relationships with the City of St. Louis and with corporations, individuals and foundations across the region. This is evidenced in his instrumental role during the earliest years when the Forest Park Forever Strategic Plan was just being developed, through the development and implementation of the Forest Park Forever and City of St. Louis Bond Agreement in 2011 and 2013.
Both Eva and Peter are incredibly deserving of this recognition and we were thrilled to present them with their Keeper of Forest Park awards during this festive public event.