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Major Work Begins on Central Fields and Waterways in Forest Park
Restoration is beginning on the iconic Apotheosis of St. Louis statue overlooking Art Hill, as part of major improvements to Central Fields and ongoing restoration to waterways in Forest Park.

Major Work Begins on Central Fields and Waterways in Forest Park
In a fast-paced presentation, Forest Park Forever Executive Director Lesley S. Hoffarth, P.E. noted that they are in the process of raising $30 million in private funds as part of an overall $130 million improvement projects campaign.
Major Work Begins on Central Fields, Waterways and Security in Forest Park
Betty Moore, SLFP.com
ST. LOUIS, MO, (SLFP.com), March 24, 2017 - The second annual Under the Clock Tower: State of Forest Park Community Gathering, held Thursday evening, March 23, drew an enthusiastic audience to learn more about exciting improvement projects taking place.

Attendees were greeted by Mounted Policeman Dave 'Chopper' Leifheit on his horse, Cowboy, as they entered the the Dennis & Judith Jones Visitor and Education Center.

Visitors enjoyed chatting with representatives from many Park institutions, including the Missouri History Museum. Representatives from the City's Department of Parks, Recreation and Forestry, Forest Park Forever, Park destinations and Park partners such as Great Rivers Greenway and Shakespeare Festival St. Louis shared information and answered questions about ongoing projects and programming.

Young and old alike gathered at activity stations to share in the fun during the Community Open House and Happy Hour, which featured samples of Urban Chestnut's Forest Park Pilsner, brewed in honor of Forest Park Forever's 30th anniversary (which was celebrated in 2016) and complimentary snacks.

In a fast-paced presentation, Executive Director Lesley S. Hoffarth, P.E. noted that the City of St. Louis and Forest Park Forever came together to raise more than $100 million to complete a transformative and improvement projects in the park like of the Emerson Grand Basin, the Boathouse, the World's Fair Pavilion and more.

"There are a lot of projects left to do," stated Hoffarth. Forest Park Forever is in the second phase of improvement projects. To complete the process, they are raising $30 million in private funds as part of an overall $130 million Forest Park Forever campaign.

She provided highlights of a few of the most timely projects, one of which impacts visitors to the park. In summer of 2016, construction began to improve Government and Wells Drives. "These are about as old as the park itself," noted Hoffarth. She added that the roades were potholed and lacked safe crossings. The work crews are working to transform this space and by June park visitors going to the Zoo and Art Museum of will see dramatic improvements including 2 miles of new sidewalks, new lighting, safe crosswalks, rain gardens and places for visitors to stop and rest.

When Forest Park was founded in 1876, the River Des Peres wound through the park. It was eventually put underground permanently in two 30' concrete channels in the 1920s. The Park's current waterway follows a similar path. Extensive work was done between 1999 and 2004 to restore the waterway through the initiative called "The River Returns."

"The improvement laid out in the Master Plan is not complete," said Hoffarth. "Four key projects will focus on the eastern half of the park, including replacing the 100 year-old leaking fountain at Round Lake, extending Jefferson Lake to complete wildlife corridor, construct a new water feature at the end of the lake; and overhauling Buwl Lake closer to the Science Center and remove invasive species.

City of St. Louis Department of Parks, Recreation and Forestry Director Greg Hayes drew laughs from the crowd as he spoke about the orange construction cones on a bridge near the Boat House. "This has not provided the best experience for visitors."

Hayes stated that this Spring construction will begin to improve the area and waterways. In August the bridge is scheduled to be dropped and rebuilt. Visitors will also see work being done in the tributaries.

One of the most dramatic enhancements will occur on Central Fields. The 29 acres of Forest Park is the site of major events including the Great Forest Park Balloon Glow and Race, Loufest and competitive baseball and soccer games.

"The fields will have new irrigation installed, trails, new sidewalks, reconfigured athletic fields and attractive new landscaping. Two new ADA compliant structures will be built to provide comfortable restrooms and concessions to the many people who come to Central Fields to celebrate and play," stated Hayes.

As construction will continue this fall, he confirmed that they have been working with various organizations to assure that the major events will have great Forest Park alternative locations.

Hayes highlighted upgrades to security in Forest Park, which will include new security cameras at the park's 10 vehicular entrances. The cameras will be tied in to the Police Department's realtime crime center downtown. There will be additional monitoring for the parking lots and increased police patrols, including the mounted police.

Hoffarth announced that the popular Forest Park Trolley will return in April and run through Labor Day Weekend. "Coming later this year, the Loop Trolley will connect Forest Park at the History Museum to the Delmar Loop," she said.

On a final note, Hoffart said that restoration is beginning on the iconic Apotheosis of St. Louis statue overlooking Art Hill. "It has been nearly twenty years since this statue has received maintenance work," she said, adding that it had just received funding.

"This statue is a major cultural landmark in this city and making sure it continues to stand for generations to come is something we take very seriously," stated Hoffarth.


Forest Park Visitors Center
Dennis & Judith Jones Visitor and Education Center © slfp.com archived photo

Fair Saint Louis Announces 2017 Dates in Forest Park
ST. LOUIS, MO, (SLFP.com) - Fair Saint Louis will return to Forest Park for the fourth year.has announced its 2017 dates. The 37th annual Independence Day celebration will be held July 2, 3 & 4, 2017, as fans pack the grounds that once hosted the 1904 World's Fair.

Fair Saint Louis has also announced volunteer leaders James Boldt, 2016 vice chairman, as general chairman for the 2017 event, and David Estes, 2016 venue management chairman, as vice chairman.

"With nearly 235,000 attendees and a dozen entertainers at Fair Saint Louis 2016, we're looking forward to an even bigger and better 2017," said Boldt. "Forest Park is truly an incredible venue to host America's Biggest Birthday Party, and we're once again looking forward to showcasing America's No. 1 city park to St. Louisans and visitors alike during next year's celebration."


Fountain at World's Fair Pavilion
The newly renovated fountain on Government Hill beneath the World's Fair Pavilion in Forest Park.

Forest Park Is the 'Crown Jewel' of St. Louis
In 1876, Forest Park was created from 1,371 acres of land west of downtown St. Louis. By the 1890s, the public park was widely used for recreation with bicycle paths, baseball diamonds and lawn tennis courts. An expanded lake provided parkgoers with an opportunity for boating in the summer and skating in the winter. Funds were raised to develop the St. Louis Zoo by the Forest Park Zoological Association.

The western half of the metropolitan park was used as the site for the Louisiana Purchase Exposition in 1904. Today, the Saint Louis Art Museum occupies one of the few remaining structures built for the Fair. The Missouri Historical Society is comprised of the new Emerson Electric Center and the Jefferson Memorial Building. The building was the first memorial built to honor Thomas Jefferson and was funded with proceeds from the 1904 Fair.

A natural amphitheater near Art Hill was developed as The Muny in 1917 with proceeds from a theatrical production called the Pageant and Masque which was performed on a stage built over part of the Grand Basin.

In 1936, an Art Deco-style Conservatory opened in Forest Park. The Jewel Box is surrounded by rose gardens, lily ponds, statuary and monuments and houses seasonal displays.

The site of a razed Mounted Police Station became space for the McDonnell Planetarium which was completed in 1963. In 1984, the city sold the Planetarium to the Museum of Science and Natural History. The building, renamed the St. Louis Science Center, is connected by a highway overpass and tunnel to its new headquarters, south of Forest Park.

Private donors to Forest Park Forever paid for the $1.1 million restoration of the World's Fair Pavilion. The current renovation is the first of three scheduled phases of Forest Park Master Plan. Forest Park is used by more than 13 million visitors a year. Forest Park Forever was founded in 1986 to work in partnership with the Department of Parks, Recreation & Forestry to rehabilitate and maintain the Forest Park as the "Crown Jewel" of the metropolitan area.

The annual Great Forest Park Balloon Glow and the Great Forest Park Balloon Race is held on Central Field, located just north of the Jewel Box. The Concours d'Elegance and Easter Car Show is held on the Muny upper parking lot.


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