At Forest Park, There’s Nothing Easy About Hardscapes!
Home is Where the Park is for Dave Lenczycki, Director of Projects and Planning for Forest Park Forever — and the Park is where his work is.
“Forest Park is home to me because it’s where I go with my family in every season,” Lenczycki says. “But when I arrive here to work every day, the ‘work’ part just drifts away.”
“I love being able to get away from my desk when time allows to take a walk in nature and reset my brain,” he adds. “I don’t ever want to take that for granted.”
To be sure, Lenczycki’s brain likely needs a lot of resetting throughout the year. In 2019 alone, he and his team are working with the City of St. Louis to complete about $3 million in hardscape projects to restore and maintain Forest Park.
“What we do in the Park is amazing, because a lot of it is behind-the-scenes work that people may not appreciate right away, but it is needed to make the Park pop,” Lenczycki says.
The work is possible because of a unique enhanced maintenance agreement between the City of St. Louis and Forest Park Forever. In biweekly meetings, the Parks Department and Lenczycki’s team get together to talk through what each can bring to the table.
“The City has heavy equipment and highly skilled tradespeople, while we have horticulturalists and professional gardeners who bring to life the green growing assets,” Lenczycki explains. “It’s truly a partnership. We are in lock-step with the City on our hardscape projects.”
Of course, as anyone who’s tried to complete a home-improvement project knows, you can never do just one thing. The projects Lenczycki and the City take on often grow once the work is under way, and new projects can pop up at any time. The enhanced maintenance agreement gives them the flexibility to adapt quickly.
“There are so many needs, but limited resources,” Lenczycki says. “We started 2019 with about 25 projects, but we’ve added about 20 contingency projects throughout the year. Right now, we have more than 35 projects going on.”
Here are some of Lenczycki’s favorite recently completed projects:
The Apotheosis statue that has stood at the top of Art Hill since 1906 is an iconic Forest Park landmark, but it takes a lot of work to keep the French king and his horse looking their best.
For the past several decades, King Louis has gotten regular facelifts at the loving hands of a single local bronze-polishing expert. But last year, Lenczycki’s team noticed that the statue had a bigger problem — one side of its granite base was about to fall off.
“Granite has to breathe, but at some point, someone must have sealed the stone to try to protect it,” Lenczycki says. “Water worked its way into the base over the years, and because it couldn’t evaporate through the sealant, it would stay in the stone through the annual freeze and thaw cycle.”
Forest Park Forever hired expert stonemason Michael Gomez to repair the base.
“It was nerve-wracking,” Lenczycki says of watching Gomez at work. “At any minute it seemed like the whole side of the base could just pop off, but he painstakingly repaired the stone so that it looks brand new now.”
A lot of Lenczycki’s work falls under the category of “You don’t know it’s there until it’s gone.” And then, you really, really know.
One of these “too big to fail” projects is the network of massive, underground pumps that keep water flowing through the Park, especially at high-visibility features like the Cascades.
“That is such a unique site,” Lenczycki says. “You can have a beautiful photography session there with the water flowing in the background and feel like you’re not even in the city.”
But the Cascades — built in 1937 to honor the water feature that flowed down the sides of Art Hill at the 1904 World’s Fair — isn’t just romantic; it’s also the start of the Park’s river system. Several more pumps throughout the Park keep the water moving and the fountains spraying — though you ever see or hear them.
“The pumps are hidden underground on purpose, but they have to run constantly,” says Lenczycki. “I’m proud of our partnership with the City that allows us to keep them running and fix them quickly when something goes wrong, because water is critical to the Park.”
Great Curb Appeal!
Visitors to the Muny this season enjoyed a special treat as they entered the theater — the brightly lit Nathan Frank Bandstand in the center of Pagoda Circle.
“The lighting was failing, so we replaced it with a new, energy efficient LED lighting system,” Lenczycki says. “Now, it looks great. We have probably gotten more compliments about the new bandstand lighting than any of our other maintenance projects so far this year.”
When you join Forest Park Forever, you help Lenczycki, his team, and the City of St. Louis maintain Forest Park as everyone’s most beautiful home . . . Now & Forever!