From the inception of Forest Park in 1876, visitors to the area admired the beauty and serenity of the natural environment teeming with life and full of excitement and discovery. While the Park has changed much over that time, it is still called the soul of St. Louis and viewed as the regional “backyard.” During the conception of Forest Park’s Master Plan, considerations were made to restore and reinvigorate the native beauty that has always drawn swarms of citizens out of the city and into the natural environment. This conception included a design for a Nature Reserve to span the length of the Park, offering environmental engagement for all park users and forming a refuge for native plant and wildlife.
Consisting of nearly 170 acres, the Nature Reserve in Forest Park contains native old-growth forest habitat, restored forests and woodlands, tall grass prairies, savannas, wetlands and two linear miles of reconstructed river system. The Nature Reserve provides a positive environmental impact, natural balance, educational opportunities and aesthetics, all within the heart of a highly urban area. These habitats are laid out throughout the park in a way that they form a corridor across the Park for use by wildlife and visitors alike. Today, the Nature Reserve provides great benefits to the Park and the surrounding community. These benefits include ecological services such as rain water retention and filtration, carbon sequestration and plant pollination. Services like these are influenced by, or provide benefits to, the plants and wildlife that use the Nature Reserve as suitable, functioning habitat.
Some examples include:
- Over 600 species of plants
- Visits from over 200 bird species
- Over 200 known pollinator species (bees, butterflies and moths)
- More than 200 other known insect species
- Several mammal species including mink, fox, deer, and coyote
- Numerous other species of plants and wildlife (fish, fungi, moss, etc.)
The Nature Reserve in Forest Park is a project that is conceptually managed by Forest Park Forever, the City of St. Louis Department of Parks, Recreation & Forestry and the Missouri Department of Conservation. Most of the on-the-ground management is overseen by Forest Park Forever and their Park Ecologist. The management goals seek to maintain biodiversity, ecological health and function, aesthetic beauty and educational opportunities. Forest Park Forever seeks to manage these areas with an emphasis on native and natural means when possible in order to encourage the natural integrity and interconnectedness of these ecosystems to one another and to neighboring green spaces in the St. Louis region.