2018 Under the Clock Tower: Event Recap + Photos
We were thrilled to welcome hundreds of community members to the Dennis & Judith Jones Visitor and Education Center for Under the Clock Tower on Wednesday, March 14. Many of our Park partners joined us for this third annual community gathering — our largest yet — engaging with visitors during a dynamic open house from 5:00 - 6:00 p.m.
During the second hour of the event, which was emceed by Fox 2's Jasmine Huda, FPF President and Executive Director Lesley Hoffarth and City of St. Louis Director of Parks, Recreation and Forestry Greg Hayes began by announcing the winners of the 2018 Kathryn Nelson Keeper of Forest Park Awards. You can read about the three inspiring winners in this recent blog post. Hoffarth and Hayes then filled the standing-room-only crowd in on the latest goings on at Forest Park. Ten topics were discussed during the evening's fast-paced presentation. For those who couldn't join us, here is a recap of what was shared:
1. Park Restoration & Improvements
Liberal Arts Bridge and Muny Tributary
- Started in late 2017, this project aims to rebuild Liberal Arts Bridge and greatly improve the green space and tributary around it.
- The new and improved bridge reopened to traffic earlier this year.
- Landscaping and planting will continue through the spring to create a beautiful meadow and make this area a destination people will really want to visit.
- Major construction is nearing completion, including new irrigation, new trails and sidewalks, reconfigured athletic fields, attractive new landscaping and fiber-reinforced soil.
- Two new ADA-compliant structures are being built, to provide comfortable restrooms and concessions to the many people who come to Central Fields to celebrate and play.
- In order to let the new grass grow as successfully as possible, two of the large events that have historically taken place on Central Fields will be held in other parts of the Park this fall. The Balloon Glow and Race will again be on Art Hill, and LouFest will return to the Festival and Parking Plaza at the Upper Muny.
- The baseball and softball that had taken place on Central Fields will now find a home at Aviation Fields.
- As we get these fields ready to accommodate more ball players, we are adding LED lighting to the three fields that have no lighting — meaning they can finally host night play — and irrigating two fields, to make them less prone to flooding.
Upcoming Maintenance Projects
- The City and Forest Park Forever have identified about $2.8 million dollars of maintenance projects to tackle in 2018, including:
- Repaving three more key Park roads: Union, Macklind and eastern sections of Wells Drives
- Maintenance fixes at the iconic Cascades waterfall
- Renovating the Grand Basin fountains and vaults
- Repairing the historic Victorian Bridge on the eastern side of the Park
2. Forever: The Campaign for Forest Park's Future
Just before Under the Clock Tower, Forest Park Forever was excited to announce a very successful result from our fundraising effort called Forever: The Campaign for Forest Park’s Future. This $130 million capital and endowment campaign was the largest fundraising effort in the Park’s history. We began this campaign in 2013 and finished active fundraising at the very end of 2017. We are excited to say that we not only met but exceeded that lofty goal, raising more than $139 million in gifts and pledges to support Forest Park. The improvement projects detailed above were all made possible thanks to donations to the Forever campaign.
The money raised by the Forever campaign is helping us accomplish two key goals:
- We have expanded the endowment for the Park by $100 million to make sure there is always money available for everyday maintenance — no one in this room wants to see the Park slip back into disrepair as it did last century; by using a portion of the endowment’s investment income each year, we are able to tackle those gritty fixes that are so necessary to a great Park experience;
- The Forever campaign’s second goal was to raise at least $30 million for large restoration projects that have long been in the queue.
We are so grateful for all of the generous donors who made the Forever campaign a success. This includes $25 donors all the way up to transformative gifts from individuals, families and corporations. It is thanks to tremendous community support — and the fantastic partnership between Forest Park Forever and the City of St. Louis — that Forest Park continues to be one of the region’s greatest treasures.
As a way to thank the entire community, Forest Park Forever is hosting a free celebration on April 11. Party at Pagoda Circle will include several food trucks, a bouncy house and live music from the high-energy party band Fat Pocket. Click here to learn more!
3. Park Safety
The Parks Department and Forest Park Forever work every day with The St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department to continue improving safety in Forest Park. We want to make sure that everyone who comes here feels safe, whether it’s neighbors who walk their dogs every day or tourists visiting from out of state or even from out of the country. Late last year, a new security component went live in Forest Park – the addition of a security camera system at the Park’s 10 vehicular entrances. These are similar to the systems in many other parts of the City, including downtown and Soulard. And like those, the cameras here tie into the Police Department’s Real Time Crime Center downtown. While there is very little crime in Forest Park, we know that when it occurs, it is usually car break-ins done by criminals who enter the Park by car and attempt to make a quick exit after a break-in. With this new system, if a car is coming into Forest Park with a license plate connected to a felony crime on the local, state or federal level, the system picks it up and pings the Real Time Crime Center, which can immediately communicate with officers already here in the Park. Paired with on-the-ground work of the Park Rangers, this system is a smart, useful tool to continue to deter crime in the Park. This project is truly a collaborative effort between the City, the Police Department — which operates the system — and Forest Park Forever, which contributed financially to the cameras’ installation and maintenance.
4. Park Anniversaries
One of the most special things about Forest Park is that there is so much history here. Over the last few months, we’ve been excited to recognize two anniversaries in Forest Park. When Steinberg Skating Rink opened for the season at the end of 2017, they did so with a nod to their 1957 founding — celebrating 60 years of ice skating in Forest Park. If you didn’t get a chance to hit the ice over the winter, there are plans in the works at Steinberg for the warmer months to bring some special offerings, such as shuffleboard. Be on the lookout for more information about that in the coming weeks.
In 2018, our friends at the Muny are busy preparing for their centennial season – celebrating 100 years of open-air theatre. They have a great season ahead, from Jerome Robbins’ Broadway to Meet Me in St. Louis. The Missouri History Museum is even getting in on this celebration with an exhibition exploring the Muny’s history. Muny Memories: 100 Seasons Onstage opens at the History Museum on June 9.
5. The Boathouse
Late last year the City of St. Louis awarded a new concession contract for the Boathouse, one of the most iconic places in Forest Park. The new concessioner is the Sugarfire Restaurant Group — these are the folks that run Sugarfire Smokehouse, the Hi-Pointe Drive-in just outside the Park and Cyrano’s in Webster Groves. The team has been busy with renovations and creating a new menu.
We’re excited to share tonight that the Boathouse will open sometime this month. From entrees like Cedar Plank Salmon to sandwiches including the famous Hi-Pointe burger, brunch favorites like huevos rancheros and tasty kids’ options, the new menu is sure to have something for everyone. You will of course still be able rent paddle boats, and possibly stand up paddleboards, kayaks and canoes. We'll be sure to share more details as they are announced!
6. Natural Playscape
While Forest Park is home to a few traditional playgrounds with slides and swings and the like, as well as acres of natural areas, there isn’t one destination that merges the two: a place within a natural area crafted with great intention to help kids connect with and enjoy the natural world. The are plans now in place to provide just such a place.
The Natural Playscape in Forest Park is still in the design phase, but there is a selected location for it, between Successional Forest and the World’s Fair Pavilion. Last fall, the playscape proceeded through step three of the nine-step process that all capital projects in the Park go through with the Forest Park Advisory Board.
Right now, the playscape project teams are in the midst of an in-depth process of talking with kids, teachers and other Park stakeholders about how a project like this could be designed to have the greatest success — while being a perfect fit within Forest Park and this location in particular. One element of the research phase has been inviting kids to take part in what’s called a ‘mobile engagement station.’ Kids are given an array of natural elements, and they put together what for them would be an ideal natural play area. We’ll be doing many more engagement evenings out in the community this spring and summer.
7. Other City Parks
Forest Park is one of 109 total parks in the City of St. Louis. And while it is clearly the largest and requires the most care, we used the stage at Under the Clock Tower to share updates about a few other great things happening City-wide.
North Riverfront Park
- Renovations have started to improve the restrooms and parking lot, and new exercise stations have been installed.
- Renovations are nearing completion on comfort stations and the pool locker room and a new roller skating rink is being built. They will also be resurfacing the basketball courts.
- Has seen tennis court renovations and boathouse renovation including bathrooms. Coming up, there will be improvements to bird habitat, new wayfinding signage and improvements to the ball fields.
- Improvements have been completed at the ball fields, tennis courts and — with the support of AFLCIO — the fishing pier; and construction will start later this year on renovations to the hockey rink.
- The City will be repainting the outside of the Boathouse so that it’s similar in color to the original building. They'll also be fixing a significant drainage problem in the park near this boathouse, which causes the ground level to flood 2 to 3 feet inside the building, rendering the open meeting space and bathrooms useless. The bathrooms will also be renovated, helping to make this building great community meeting space.
8. Park Connectivity
Forest Park Trolley
- Operated by Metro Transit, the Trolley is a partnership between Forest Park Forever, Missouri History Museum, Saint Louis Art Museum, Saint Louis Science Center, Saint Louis Zoo and the City of St. Louis. Last year, 50,000 riders hopped on the trolley to navigate the Park in a fun, sustainable way while being able to stop at all the major Park destinations, as well as a nearby MetroLink stop. We hope even more will catch a ride when the Forest Park Trolley returns to the Park this spring.
- Spearheaded by our friends at Great Rivers Greenway, the Chouteau Greenway aims to connect Washington University and Forest Park on the west side to Downtown and the Gateway Arch on the east side. The greenway will be a public park, a pedestrian and bike-friendly transit corridor, and a new way of experiencing St. Louis. As a funding partner for this design competition phase, Forest Park Forever is excited to be among a group of local organizations that are working together to help bring this exciting greenway to life. You can learn more about it at an open house at the Dennis & Judith Jones Visitor and Education Center next month – April 15-17. This summer is the anticipated time to announce the winning design concept for the greenway.
Forest Park Great Streets
- Managed by East-West Gateway Council of Governments — the metropolitan planning organization — in coordination with the City of St. Louis and Forest Park Forever, the goal of the project has been to develop a multi-modal access and circulation strategy that increases the safety, convenience, and accessibility to and within Forest Park, resulting in an improved visitor experience. Last year, there were a handful of open houses and meetings with Park stakeholders and the public to hear some of the greatest challenges and opportunities.
- On April 26th, we will be holding a public meeting here in the Park to share the recommendations from the study. If you can’t make it, visit this page for updated info.
- Bike Share is coming to St. Louis — and Forest Park! Bi-State Development has been leading the effort with the City of St. Louis to develop a network of shared bicycles available for short-term use. This will be a low-cost, environmentally friendly transportation network that enhances the public transit network and the health of our residents.
- The City of St. Louis is currently reviewing permit applications and then the companies will bring 500-750 bikes to St. Louis in April for a launch event. They can expand by 350 bikes per month until they reach 2,500 bikes.
- You can expect to see bikes in areas of dense activity at first, like around Downtown, Forest Park, the Central West End, and Tower Grove Park. However, the bikes will go where riders take them – they can be parked anywhere in St. Louis at bike racks or out of the way between the sidewalk and the street. Additionally, 20% of the bikes will be available in targeted neighborhoods to the north between Delmar and Natural Bridge, and in the Dutchtown South area.
9. Fishing in Forest Park
The lakes in Forest Park have been continuously used to provide fishing opportunities since the late 1800s. Our partners at the Missouri Department of Conservation stock Jefferson Lake with fish – making it a popular fishing destination all year long. Their typical mix includes blue gill sunfish, green sunfish, catfish, crappie and bass. In the winter, you can even catch trout.
Since 1969, Jefferson Lake has been the largest and most integral part of what is one of the oldest urban fishing programs in the U.S. The St. Louis Urban Fishing Program was developed to provide close-to-home fishing opportunities for St. Louis anglers. Each year Jefferson Lake is stocked with 6,500 channel catfish and 3,600 trout; and hosts an average of 13,000 fishing trips
One of our next Park restoration projects that is actually in design now includes making significant improvements to the bodies of water on the east side of Forest Park, including Jefferson Lake. Proposed features of the project include further linking the waterway system; enhancing fishing habitat and access with a new or improved pier; improving water quality; and increasing biodiversity. We think Park visitors — including those who fish — will really enjoy these improvements.
For those of you with young children, the Missouri Department of Conservation hosts a series of youth programs at the Fish Hatcheries here in the Park. In 1879, this Hatchery Area was built in Forest Park to create the first fish hatchery west of the Mississippi River. It contained 9 ponds, a production building, and some small offices. Today, the Hatchery Area is cooperatively managed by the City of St. Louis’s Department of Parks, Recreation and Forestry and the Missouri Department of Conservation. Annually, the Hatcheries host over 3,500 youth anglers.
10 Visitorship Study
Forest Park Forever is two years into its current five-year Strategic Plan. While we will always remain focused on our core mission of restoring, maintaining and sustaining the Park alongside the City, we will be spending a bit more time in the coming years thinking about how to connect more with visitors and the entire community.
We are in the early stages of launching a multi-year Visitorship Study, and we plan to use it to learn how and why visitors are using the Park, as well as who’s not here — and what barriers might exist for them that can be addressed. We will be using all of our major communications outlets — from printed material to social media — to get the word out about our survey when that time comes. We look forward to traveling beyond the Park to the larger region to learn how Forest Park can continue being a regional treasure for all of us.