Forest Park Forever and the City Announce New Way-Finding System and Restroom Improvements

Made possible through FPF and the City’s unique partnership as well as generous private donations — including lead gifts from the William T. Kemper Foundation-Commerce Bank, Brown Shoe Company Charitable Trust and Mary Ann Lee  — these projects respond to top visitor requests and advance the Forest Park Master Plan 


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 15, 2014

For more information, contact:
Stephen Schenkenberg, Forest Park Forever 
sschenkenberg@forestparkforever.org, (314) 561-3448

Maggie Crane, Office of the Mayor
CraneM@stlouis-mo.gov, (314) 622-4072

ST. LOUIS, MO — Forest Park Forever and the City of St. Louis announced today that the City has begun installing an intuitive and visitor-friendly Park-wide way-finding system, consisting of 239 new directional signs, Park maps, informational kiosks and banners that will greatly assist the Park’s 13 million annual visitors in successfully navigating the Park. The organization and City also announced that the first phase of improvements to Forest Park’s restrooms and drinking fountains will begin this fall, starting with the restroom near the Park’s highly trafficked Hampton entrance. 

Through the innovative public/private partnership the City and Forest Park Forever have, the two entities work together to develop plans for Park capital projects that are called for by the Forest Park Master Plan; in doing so, they work with the Forest Park Advisory Board to ensure that the projects are consistent with the spirit and intent of the Master Plan. Next, Forest Park Forever raises the private dollars needed for these projects, then uses those funds to purchase City bonds. And finally, once the projects are funded, the City administers them, and the City’s bond repayment and interest are used by Forest Park Forever to maintain Forest Park. 

The announcements were made at an event today in Forest Park, with remarks City Parks Director Gary Bess, Board of Public Service President Richard T. Bradley, Josh Wiese from the Mayor's Office, Forest Park Forever Board Chair Steve Finerty, Forest Park Forever President & Executive Director Lesley S. Hoffarth, P.E. and Rick Ausick, Brown Shoe Company Division President for Famous Footwear. The community gathering, which included project donors, leaders from a range of Park institutions, Forest Park Forever Board members, local officials and members of the public, was capped off by an unveiling of one of the new signs, viewings of additional renderings and a community lunch of local food truck fare and ice cream.

Lesley Hoffarth and Gary Bess unveil the first new Forest Park sign. (View more photos.)

“This is an exciting announcement for St. Louis, Forest Park and the Park’s users and visitors,” said Mayor Francis G. Slay. “These two comprehensive projects will enhance the Forest Park experience for millions of visitors — every day of the year.”

“Forest Park’s transformation in recent decades has been remarkable,” said Gary Bess, City Parks Director. “But there are still areas where critical upgrades are needed. Better signage and restrooms have been at the top of the visitor wish list for years. We’re thrilled to be moving forward with these projects.” 

“Together, these projects will dramatically improve the experience of millions of visitors,” said Lesley S. Hoffarth, Forest Park Forever President & Executive Director. “The top two requests we receive from visitors are to help them better navigate Forest Park and to improve our drinking fountains and restroom facilities. Forest Park Forever is grateful to our donors and partners — particularly the City — for making these initiatives possible. These improvements will make a great park even greater.”

New Way-Finding System

It is estimated that a quarter of Forest Park’s 13 million annual visitors are not from the St. Louis area. Even for those who are, the Park’s existing brown navigational signs — intended to be temporary when they were installed years ago — can appear confusing or incomplete to visitors. 

Forest Park Forever convened a group to begin crafting a visitor-focused solution to this problem. Forest Park Forever, the Missouri History Museum, Saint Louis Art Museum, Saint Louis Science Center and Saint Louis Zoo contributed funds and ideas toward the initial design costs; the City of St. Louis, the Boathouse, Dwight Davis Tennis Center, Eagle Golf, the Muny, Shakespeare Festival St. Louis and Steinberg Skating Rink also played a role in the design process. 

After the initial design stage was complete, Forest Park Forever led the project and raised private funds for further design as well as construction and installation. When installed by the City this summer, the Park’s resulting new permanent way-finding system will greatly assist walkers, runners, cyclists and drivers in finding their way through the Park. The signage system has many important features, including: 

  • Increased signage: The new system contains more than twice the number of signs as the existing system, providing visitors additional confidence and confirmation as they move toward their desired destination and throughout the path system.
  • Aesthetically at home in the Park: While greater in number, the attractive new signs have been designed to fit more pleasingly into the Park’s natural landscape. The signs will be instructive for those visitors seeking them out, without being intrusive to the overall Forest Park backdrop.
  • Strategically designed and placed: The new signs have been designed as part of a ‘progressive disclosure’ system, giving visitors increasingly more specific information as they make their way toward their destination. (This system is already in use by the St. Louis Convention & Visitors Commission.) In addition, sign placement has been re-envisioned to better fit with how visitors circulate through the Park. 
  • More accurate and complete: In building the new system, Forest Park Forever was able to redress gaps in the existing signs.
  • Beyond destination signs: While signs pointing toward destinations are a central component of this new system, visitors will also benefit from 25 new kiosks that feature Park maps on one side and information on the other, including interpretive vignettes that detail the rich history of the Park’s iconic spaces.

This $1.1 million project was made possible through generous donations from the William T. Kemper Foundation–Commerce Bank, which contributed a total of $1 million to support both this project and the Forest Park Forever endowment for long-term Park maintenance; Mary Ann Lee; Dwyer Brown & Nancy Reynolds and the William E. Weiss Foundation; and the Missouri History Museum, Saint Louis Art Museum, Saint Louis Science Center and Saint Louis Zoo. Additional funding was also contributed to provide endowment support necessary for long-term maintenance. 

The way-finding project has been designed by a team led by Corbin Design. A team led by ASI Signage Innovations — including Edwards-Kamadulski (MBE), Tramar Contracting (WBE) and J.P. Collier (WBE) — is managing fabrication, construction and installation. 

Sign.gif

Installation of the Park’s new way-finding system — Forest Park’s most comprehensive Park-wide project since the completion of the recreational Dual Path in 2011 — begins this month and will be complete by fall 2014.


Restroom and Drinking Fountain Upgrades

For many decades, Forest Park has been in need of improved restroom facilities and drinking fountains to better meet the demand of its 13 million visitors each year. 

For a runner hoping to stop amid the Park’s 12 miles of recreational paths, or a family needing a restroom break after an early spring picnic, Forest Park’s facilities have offered an underwhelming and spare experience — or no experience at all; the majority of the Park’s restrooms and drinking fountains close from October through mid-April, having no heat source to keep them open. 

In fall 2014, Phase 1 of Park-wide improvements to its restrooms and drinking fountains will begin, heating the facilities so that they are open year-round and making them more accessible and welcoming to all visitors. This first phase is focused on three restroom locations: 

  • Just southeast of the Hampton entrance roundabout 
  • On the north side of Steinberg Skating Rink 
  • On Wells Drive (east of the Government Drive intersection) near several of the Park’s picnic pavilions

The key goals of this Phase 1 work are to: 

  • Upgrade the comfort stations with heat for year-round operation as well as new bike racks and drinking fountains (including two with bottle fillers and pet bowl fountains) 
  • Increase accessibility, including by improving connections to the recreational path 
  • Plant new landscaping surrounding the areas, including new trees in line with the Forest Park Tree Master Plan

In addition to the three locations mentioned above, the restroom on Clayton Avenue just west of Aviation Field will receive critical upgrades, including new bike racks, a new drinking fountain (with bottle filler and pet bowl fountain) and new landscaping.

Each of these restroom locations has been strategically selected to cover quadrants of the Park currently lacking in year-round facilities.

This Phase 1 work will be complete by December 2014, ensuring that Park users will have three additional facilities open and available this winter season. Future phases of this project will provide opportunities for more dramatic renovations, including offering additional amenities often requested by Forest Park visitors. 

The Brown Shoe Company Charitable Trust has stepped forward as the first lead partner for this comprehensive improvement project, with a gift of $750,000. Brown Shoe Company’s generous multi-year commitment will go well beyond this first phase of improvements, ultimately transforming the facility at the Hampton entrance into a full gathering plaza, with comfortable seating, more beautiful landscaping, enhanced accessibility and additional visitor amenities.  

Additional gifts from Mary Ann Lee and Don and Nancy Ross are also contributing to the transformation of these Forest Park restrooms and drinking fountains. 

“Forest Park brings family and friends together, and that is near and dear to us, because families are at the heart of everything we do at Famous Footwear,” said Rick Ausick, Brown Shoe Company Division President, Famous Footwear. “Today we are announcing a $750,000 grant to Forest Park Forever, supporting our charitable mission to help develop stronger families by providing opportunities for them to enrich their experiences. Supporting the St. Louis community is something Brown Shoe Company has done since 1921, donating more than $20 million to charitable organizations. Our mission at Brown Shoe Company is to inspire people to feel good and live better … feet first. There is no better way to celebrate that mission than to support this Gathering Plaza, which serves as a gateway to the Park.”

 A conceptual rendering of Phase 2 work, when comfort stations will be built out into full Gathering Plazas.

A conceptual rendering of Phase 2 work, when comfort stations will be built out into full Gathering Plazas.

“We are thrilled to be starting these critical restroom and drinking fountain upgrades,” said Steve Finerty, Board Chairman of Forest Park Forever. “This is possible only because of our great partnership with the City of St. Louis and the project’s donors, particularly the Brown Shoe Company Charitable Trust. Visitors have told us how important these amenities are for their Forest Park experience, so we look forward to completing the first phase of this comprehensive project by December 2014. Like the new signage system, improved comfort stations will be appreciated by every Forest Park visitor.”  


About Forest Park Forever
In 1986, Forest Park Forever, a private, not-for-profit organization, was founded to work in partnership with the City of St. Louis and the Department of Parks, Recreation and Forestry to restore, maintain and sustain Forest Park as one of America’s great urban public parks for the enjoyment of all — now and forever.  

About Brown Shoe Company
Brown Shoe Company is a $2.5 billion, global, footwear company whose shoes are worn by people of all ages, from all walks of life.  Our products are available virtually everywhere — in the over 1,200 Famous Footwear and Naturalizer retail stores we operate, in hundreds of major department and specialty stores, on 14 branded ecommerce sites, and on many additional third-party retail websites.  Through our broad range of products, we serve three key market segments.  Our Family brands — Famous Footwear, Famous.com, and shoes.com — are one-stop-shopping destinations for high quality, affordable styles for a family’s every occasion.  Active people who want comfort, style and performance can look to our Healthy Living brands — Naturalizer, Dr. Scholl's, LifeStride and Ryka.  Our Contemporary Fashion brands — Sam Edelman, Franco Sarto, Via Spiga, Vince, Carlos Santana and Fergie Footwear — keep fashionistas in step with the latest trends.  At Brown Shoe Company, we inspire people to feel good and live better... feet first!

About the William T. Kemper Foundation–Commerce Bank
The William T. Kemper Foundation–Commerce Bank, Trustee was established in 1989, following William T. Kemper, Jr.’s death. Mr. Kemper compiled an impressive list of business accomplishments; however, his contributions to his community extended far beyond its boardrooms. He was an innovator in urban development, an avid art collector and involved in many nonprofit organizations. The Kemper family is dedicated to continuing Mr. Kemper’s lifelong interest in improving the human condition and quality of life. The Kemper Foundation strives to make a difference in the community through grants that support innovative, impactful projects that make our region a better place.

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