St. Louis Forest Park

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Spring in Forest Park
The experiential Playscape is being created on 17 acres in the heart of the Park, between the World's Fair Pavilion and the Jewel Box. Image courtesy Forest Park Forever

Experiential Nature Playscape to Open on 17 Acres in Forest Park in 2020
ST. LOUIS, MO, (SLFP.com), July 15, 2019 - A ceremonial groundbreaking for a new Nature Playscape in Forest Park was held July 15 at the World's Fair Pavilion. The experiential Playscape is being created on 17 acres in the heart of the Park, between the World's Fair Pavilion and the Jewel Box.

Funded by donors to Forest Park Forever, the Nature Playscape in Forest Park has been designed to feature eight 'activity areas,' including Mounds, Spring, Meadow, a Wetland and more. A series of paths and boardwalks will connect the distinct areas, creating opportunities for kids and families to climb, splash, build and explore their way through the site. The key goals for the Nature Playscape project are to:
  • Connect children and families of all backgrounds and abilities with nature and promote their physical, mental and emotional well-being /FONT>
  • Engage children's senses as they explore, discover and learn
  • Provide an accessible, joyful and safe destination for nature-based experiential education
  • Transform mowed turf into natural landscapes with native and diverse plant species
  • Promote environmental stewardship among community members of all ages
  • Enhance the overall Forest Park experience for all visitors
"The new Nature Playscape will be a fantastic and unique destination for both Forest Park and the entire region," said Lesley S. Hoffarth, P.E., President and Executive Director of Forest Park Forever. "We are grateful to our generous donors who have made this project possible, and to the City of St. Louis for our terrific partnership here in the Park. Forest Park Forever believes deeply in the importance of our youth building and sustaining connections to nature, particularly in today's digital world. The experiences kids will have in the Nature Playscape will last a lifetime." "The new Nature Playscape has been designed to fit thoughtfully within Forest Park," said Greg Hayes, Director of Parks, Recreation & Forestry for the City of St. Louis. "Up until now this area had just been mowed turf. In restoring these 17 acres to more natural landscapes, the project not only offers an incredible amount of nature-based fun to visitors, but it also continues our long-term efforts to be responsible stewards of the Forest Park grounds."

Project Facts
  • Nature Playscape site is 17 acres
  • First project of its kind at this scale in the region
  • Located in the heart of Forest Park, between the World's Fair Pavilion and the Jewel Box
  • 280 majority native species trees are being planted; 20 existing trees are being transplanted
  • 600 native species shrubs are being planted
  • 100+ species of grasses and flowering plants are being planted
  • Site is accessible by all modes of transport, including school buses
  • Playscape features ADA-accessible paths
  • Nature Playscape will open in 2020
Playscape Design
The Nature Playscape in Forest Park has been developed and designed by a team of national experts in the fields of landscape architecture and play spaces - including the Natural Learning Initiative, H3 Studio, Interboro Partners and Rubus Landscape Architecture - in collaboration with Forest Park Forever, the City of St. Louis and local leaders in the areas of child development, experiential and outdoor education, play and access. The project included interactive engagement with a diverse community of St. Louis youth from more than 20 schools, recreation centers and youth/education organizations


Wetlands in Forest Park
Funded by donors to Forest Park Forever, the Nature Playscape in Forest Park has been designed to feature eight 'activity areas,' including Mounds, Spring, Meadow, a Wetland (shown above). A series of paths and boardwalks will connect the distinct areas, creating opportunities for kids and families to climb, splash, build and explore their way through the site. Image courtesy Forest Park Forever

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Fountain at World's Fair Pavilion
The 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.

Great Forest Park Balloon Glow and the Great Forest Park Balloon Race have been relocated to Art Hill due to construction on Central Fields. The Concours d'Elegance and Easter Car Show is held on the Muny upper parking lot.


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