American Planning Association Designates Forest Park a Top 10 Great Public Space for 2013




Noted for Design, Amenities, Cultural Institutions, History — The First Great Public Space in Missouri

ST. LOUIS, MO, FRIDAY OCTOBER 4, 2013 – The American Planning Association (APA) today announced the designation of Forest Park as one of 10 Great Public Space for 2013 under the organization’s Great Places in America program. APA Great Places exemplify exceptional character and highlight the role planning and planners play in adding value to communities, including fostering economic growth and jobs.

APA singled out Forest Park, the “heart” and “crown jewel of St. Louis,” for its enduring design, myriad cultural institutions, amenities, and 137-year history. The Park, which attracts some 13 million visitors annually, completed a $100 million restoration within the last decade. It is the nation’s seventh largest urban park with 1,371 acres, making it 60 percent larger than New York’s Central Park.

“It’s hard to imagine that just 20 years ago this cultural and historic icon was in an embarrassing state of disrepair,” said APA Chief Executive Officer Paul Farmer, FAICP. “Forest Park’s restoration is the result of a multi-pronged planning effort – involving residents and public-private partnerships – that integrated the Park’s natural and man-made features to allow for a cohesive and complete visitor experience.”

"Forest Park is the best urban park in America, and it is getting even better,” said The Honorable Francis G. Slay“That is a result of a unique public-private partnership between the City and Forest Park Forever. We are very pleased and proud, but not surprised by the new designation."

It was Forest Park’s selection as the site of the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition that thrust it onto the world stage. The Park's design by George Kessler, a prominent landscape architect, resulted in dramatic changes, including the transformation of wetlands into five connected lakes. In addition to the Saint Louis Art Museum, four other institutions — a zoo, science center, history museum and the nation’s largest outdoor amphitheater dedicated to musical theater — call Forest Park home.

Decades of deferred maintenance took its toll on the Park and by the 1970s its infrastructure was crumbling. A 1993 master plan, developed by the nonprofit Forest Park Forever and the City of St Louis, led to creation of a public-private partnership, which raised more than $100 million to restore buildings, landscapes, habitats and roadways.

“We are thrilled that APA has shined its national spotlight on Forest Park,” said Lesley Hoffarth, President and Executive Director of Forest Park Forever. “Our staff, board of directors, members, donors and partners have worked extraordinarily hard in recent decades, in partnership with the City of St. Louis, to restore this essential community treasure for our millions of visitors. While our important work continues — every day, across every acre — we are proud to take this moment to celebrate this meaningful designation.”

"Forest Park is a special place for St Louis," said City Parks Director Gary D. Bess. "Everyone has a unique memory of the Park. For some, it's a place they were married, and for others it's a visit to the Zoo or playing their first ball game. Due to our unique relationship with Forest Park Forever, we have been able to transform Forest Park from a special place for St Louis to a special place for the country."

APA’s Great Public Spaces, Great Neighborhoods, and Great Streets feature unique and authentic characteristics that have evolved from years of thoughtful and deliberate planning by residents, community leaders and planners. The 2013 Great Places have many things Americans say are important to their “ideal community” including locally owned businesses, transit, neighborhood parks, and sidewalks. They illustrate how the foresight of planning fosters communities of lasting value.

For more information about these public spaces, as well as APA’s top 10 Great Streets and top 10 Neighborhoods for 2013 and previous years, visit For more about National Community Planning Month taking place throughout October visit

The American Planning Association is an independent, not-for-profit educational organization that provides leadership in the development of vital communities. APA and its professional institute, the American Institute of Certified Planners, are dedicated to advancing the art, science and profession of good planning -- physical, economic and social -- so as to create communities that offer better choices for where and how people work and live. Members of APA help create communities of lasting value and encourage civic leaders, business interests and citizens to play a meaningful role in creating communities that enrich people's lives. APA has offices in Washington, D.C., and Chicago, Ill. For more information,

Forest Park Forever, a private, nonprofit organization, was founded in 1986 to restore, maintain and sustain Forest Park, as one of America's great urban public parks, for the enjoyment of all — now and forever. Over the past decade, more than $94 million has been invested in the restoration of this community treasure.

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Stephen Schenkenberg