Home » Downtown »Featured »Parks » Currently Reading:

Focusing on Lucas Park…Again (Updated)

September 6, 2011 Downtown, Featured, Parks 38 Comments

Three years ago this month, a group of 10 downtown residents began efforts to clean up and  activate Lucas Park. The intent was not to run out the homeless, but to give the park the love it hadn’t received so the non-homeless would also feel welcomed in the public park.

ABOVE: Clogged drains led to the accumulation of mud, September 2008
ABOVE: After removing the mud and unclogging the drain, September 2008

The park lacked basic maintenance but loft dwellers and numerous homeless individuals worked together on several days that Fall to clean up the park. Many residents wanted a place where they could let their dogs run off-leash. The former playground of the Children’s Center was used for a while but it had serious shortcomings. After a design charrette in November 2008 it was clear to me a few others wanted to filter all communications in the group. My last involvement was in March 2009.

ABOVE: Aerial view of Lucas Park. Original playground/dog run on right with new dog run at the top
ABOVE: I was welcomed at the opening of the new dog park on April 3, 2010

Other than attend the opening of the dog park I’ve stayed away and not been involved, letting others do their thing.

ABOVE: New benches were added, the old USSR must have had a sale

In December 2010 the Missouri Secretary of State’s office dissolved the non-profit Lucas Park Beautification Project for not filing an annual report. The board and the city were unaware of this until I inquired recently.  Really? I’ve come to the conclusion this group is much like a high school clique, a small social group unwelcoming to others. The website, downtownstl10.org, hasn’t been updated since mid-2009. I was told applications could be picked up in person at Washington Ave Post, so I asked for one on my last visit and scanned it (view). By way of contrast, the Frenchtown Dog Park has the logical URL of FrenchtownDogPark.com where the application and dues can be completed online. The Shaw Dog Park is part of the Shaw neighborhood and can be found at www.shawstlouis.org/dogpark/ – rules and applications are also online. The SW City Dog Park in Wilmore Park is located at www.swcitydogpark.org. The Central West End dog park is at www.cwedogparks.com and like all the others the rules and applications are online. A new resident searching online for dog parks might not locate downtown because they wouldn’t find the one in Lucas Park. I knew I had to get back involved, I just couldn’t allow this small group to be the only downtown residents involved in the park that is just 2 blocks from my loft. It’s a public park, they hold no monopoly on it. Lucas Park, like me, is now part of the 5th ward rather than the 6th ward. Alderwomen April Ford Griffin (D-5) says she welcomes “input from all the residents.”  Good. I believe efforts must be on the ground and in the cloud. For the latter I set up the following to help with communications:

I don’t know at this point where this will go. I do know open communications on issues is a must. – Steve Patterson

Update Wednesday September 14, 2011 @ noon: Turns out there is a website for the dog park — lucasparkdogpark.com. Rules posted? Nope. Membership cost? No. Application form? Negative.  The only thing you can do is submit your email address so someone can contract you.  Oh yeah, the non-profit is still dissolved by the Secretary of State (view).

 

Currently there are "38 comments" on this Article:

  1. Anonymous says:

    When I think of public parks, I don’t think of looking for park-specific websites, I think of looking on the main city website > parks.  I also find it both interesting and discouraging that the city has cut budgets / abdicated responsibility to the point where local residents are forced to maintain a public asset, be it Lucas Park or Lindenwood Park.  That said, I’m conflicted by your characterization of the previous / current group as “much like a high school clique, a small social group unwelcoming to others.”  I know how hard it is to get people to be motivated and to donate their time and money, especially on an ongoing basis, so usually it falls to small group of committed people to “lead the charge”.  With that comes both a sense of ownership and a reluctance to both revisit previous discussions and to consider new ideas / change course – since we’re a democracy, there will inevitably be times when we, individually, feel unheard / disenfranchised.  The trick for any group and its leadership is balancing these potentially conflicting agendas.  And since I know little about the specific dynamics with Lucas Park, I have no clue who’s “right” or “wrong” . . . .

     
  2. JZ71 says:

    When I think of public parks, I don’t think of looking for park-specific websites, I think of looking on the main city website > parks.  I also find it both interesting and discouraging that the city has cut budgets / abdicated responsibility to the point where local residents are forced to maintain a public asset, be it Lucas Park or Lindenwood Park.  That said, I’m conflicted by your characterization of the previous / current group as “much like a high school clique, a small social group unwelcoming to others.”  I know how hard it is to get people to be motivated and to donate their time and money, especially on an ongoing basis, so usually it falls to small group of committed people to “lead the charge”.  With that comes both a sense of ownership and a reluctance to both revisit previous discussions and to consider new ideas / change course – since we’re a democracy, there will inevitably be times when we, individually, feel unheard / disenfranchised.  The trick for any group and its leadership is balancing these potentially conflicting agendas.  And since I know little about the specific dynamics with Lucas Park, I have no clue who’s “right” or “wrong” . . . .

     
  3. guest says:

    The reason the park isn’t used by residents is because it is overwhelmed by the homeless who leave their personal belongings all of the park. Just walk by on a Monday morning and you’ll see how a trashed it can get in one weekend.

     
  4. guest says:

    The reason the park isn’t used by residents is because it is overwhelmed by the homeless who leave their personal belongings all of the park. Just walk by on a Monday morning and you’ll see how a trashed it can get in one weekend.

     
    • By not using the park we allow the homeless to overwhelm it.

       
      • Chris says:

        I agree Steve, but who wants to be that first person that goes in and sits among a bunch of people drinking MadDog or smoking drugs?  I can’t ask anyone else to do that if I’m too scared to do it.

        I have to admit (call me coldhearted) to not caring if the homeless get kicked out of Lucas Park.  Isn’t that pretty much what they have already done to law-abiding people and children?  The idea that if you’re aggressive enough, drunk enough, or delinquent enough that you somehow gain title to the park and get to dictate its use is ridiculous.

        St. Louis should do what New York (and what St. Louis used to do) and build fences around their parks, thereby ensuring their careful regulation and sustainability.

         
        • We did it in 2008!! I don’t want to kick out the homeless, just create a balance so we avoid the tipping point where the park becomes entirely homeless persons.

           
        • Douglas Duckworth says:

          I think the homeless didn’t kick people out of Lucas Park.  They were there in that park when downtown didn’t have residents wanting to use it.  Building fences around parks sounds like equivalent to becoming a gated community.  If we don’t want the homeless downtown drunk causing problems  and scaring people then more should be spent at all levels of government on addressing the root causes of homelessness or at least ensuring their landlord, the NLEC, is doing something to improve the economic positions of their homeless tenants.  It’s easy to blame the victims as they don’t put on the best PR campaign, but if you “move them” out of Lucas Park the issue will simply manifest other places.  That might then be someone else’s problem and make you sleep better, but that’s the exact same irresponsible position of St. Louis County and other regional governments and why so many homeless are downtown.  

           
          • Chris says:

            Have you ever seen how nice parks in Manhattan are because they’re fenced and regulated?  Fences aren’t always about oppression, but protecting public resources as well.

             
          • My concept in late 2008 called for fencing the entire park along the lines of classic urban parks in NYC.

             
  5. By not using the park we allow the homeless to overwhelm it.

     
  6. Chris says:

    I agree Steve, but who wants to be that first person that goes in and sits among a bunch of people drinking MadDog or smoking drugs?  I can’t ask anyone else to do that if I’m too scared to do it.

    I have to admit (call me coldhearted) to not caring if the homeless get kicked out of Lucas Park.  Isn’t that pretty much what they have already done to law-abiding people and children?  The idea that if you’re aggressive enough, drunk enough, or delinquent enough that you somehow gain title to the park and get to dictate its use is ridiculous.

    St. Louis should do what New York (and what St. Louis used to do) and build fences around their parks, thereby ensuring their careful regulation and sustainability.

     
  7. We did it in 2008!! I don’t want to kick out the homeless, just create a balance so we avoid the tipping point where the park becomes entirely homeless persons.

     
  8. Dan says:

    As a downtown resident for 4 years this park has major potential but imstead has been a major disappointment. It is surrounded by residents that want to enjoy outdoor activity and have dogs to walk but are scared of the homeless that crowd them out. I hate to be insensitive as well but it’s time to take the park back from the homeless. There is no reason that person that has broken the law several times while frequenting the parks be allowed back in. People do their laundry in the fountain in addition to the drug use, public drinking, profanity, bathing in the fountain, urinating, etc. Enough is enough and it’s time to roll up the sleeves and take action. We made some improvements a few years back but it appears that has lost momentum. Why can’t we have more events in the park during weekends like art fairs, craft shows, beer tasting, fund raisers to keep activity and deter use from the homeless. Another option would be a park ranger to not permit usage by unruly and non law abiding citizens.

    We all have an investment to protect and want to see the area surrounding the parkrosper with the rehab of the central library and the Park Pacific

     
  9. Dan says:

    Steve, its not sustainable to allow a rather large group of individuals that are undesirable due to their behavior and for loft dwellers to use the park at the same time. It’s comes a point when the behavior get untolerable and it’s easier to cease use of the park.

    As a downtown resident it’s a major disappointment that this park is the way it is. It has so much potential and could be used frequently by loft dwellers and their pets but instead its main use is by vagrants that break the law while scaring residents off. The question we need to ask is why are we allowing a handful of individuals take this park away from us? We need to take action and take it back so its becomes an asset to the loft district and not a liability. However, shooing them off to a nearby park is not the answer either. There needs to be a comprehensive solution.

    The homeless urinate, bathe and do laundry in the fountain, litter, loiter, and use profane language. I though we were making progress a few years ago when the improvements were being implemented but it lost momentum.

    At this point the homeless have already been given the benefit of the doubt andI don’t care if they aren’t allowed to use the park. I would not be opposed to having a park ranger on site to not allow previous offenders to use the park and to make arrests when incidents occur.

    Another approach is to have events scheduled every weekend such as craft shows, art fairs, fund raisers, sporting events, concerts, etc to keep the homeless from over taking the park.

     
  10. Dan says:

    Steve, its not sustainable to allow a rather large group of individuals that are undesirable due to their behavior and for loft dwellers to use the park at the same time. It’s comes a point when the behavior get untolerable and it’s easier to cease use of the park.

    As a downtown resident it’s a major disappointment that this park is the way it is. It has so much potential and could be used frequently by loft dwellers and their pets but instead its main use is by vagrants that break the law while scaring residents off. The question we need to ask is why are we allowing a handful of individuals take this park away from us? We need to take action and take it back so its becomes an asset to the loft district and not a liability. However, shooing them off to a nearby park is not the answer either. There needs to be a comprehensive solution.

    The homeless urinate, bathe and do laundry in the fountain, litter, loiter, and use profane language. I though we were making progress a few years ago when the improvements were being implemented but it lost momentum.

    At this point the homeless have already been given the benefit of the doubt andI don’t care if they aren’t allowed to use the park. I would not be opposed to having a park ranger on site to not allow previous offenders to use the park and to make arrests when incidents occur.

    Another approach is to have events scheduled every weekend such as craft shows, art fairs, fund raisers, sporting events, concerts, etc to keep the homeless from over taking the park.

     
    • Branwell1 says:

      I agree with you. If the homeless or vagrant population you refer to were using the park for passive, peaceful recreation and contemplation amid the urban scene, I would see no conflict. Unfortunately, it seems that often their reasons for being in the park include aggressive panhandling and other antisocial behavior that makes other visitors feel uncomfortable and unsafe. There is little to no regional approach to the regional problem of homelessness, except to concentrate that population and its service providers in the city, as much as possible. This historical “solution” corresponds neatly to the perception that the city is, and should be, a sort of campus for criminals and the indigent. Others who choose to live there and like it are viewed as perverse interlopers putting themselves in the path of social dysfunction and violence. This is a patently ridiculous distortion, but unfortunately, it plays, in politics and in general. I welcome the exciting, positive changes to downtown St. Louis in recent years. Some of them seemed to come so quickly that we can easily lose sight of the fact that such large transformations take time.   

       
    • The “undesirables” use places nobody else wants. In the Fall of 2008 as loft residents spent more time in the park cleaning and holding events, many of the homeless dispersed.

       
      • Chris says:

        I think this is turning into a chicken and egg discussion; people don’t use the part because of the homeless, the homeless move in because no one uses the park.  I don’t see why law-abiding people should have to use the park non-stop in order to keep the homeless out.  So you don’t manage to get an event together all 52 weekends of the year, and the result is you lose the park again?

         
        • You don’t need events every weekend but you also can’t go 2.5 years without any event.

           
        • And thinking of needing to use Lucas Park on 52 weekends is the wrong approach. Parks must be used everyday, not just on the weekends: Tuesday morning, a Wednesday afternoon, a Thursday lunch, etc.

           
        • JZ71 says:

          Agree.  If this were the case, there would be homeless camped out on the arch grounds and in Forest Park, as well. You find homeless in the park because this is public property, not private.  Trespassing laws can be used to keep unwanted people off private property; public property, especially parks and libraries, is open to all residents.  The simple fact is that this park is close(st) to high concentration of homeless people and their service providers, so there will always be homeless people in and near the park – the only way to reduce the number of homeless users would be to relocate the service providers that attract and serve them. 

          The choice really becomes one of individual interactions and “safety in numbers”.  If I, individually, feel intimidated by a group of people, for whatever reason, it’s usually easier to avoid the group than to confront them.  If I don’t feel like I “fit”, be it a park or a bar, the odds are I won’t stick around very long and I’ll find somewhere else to hang out.  Multiply that by thousands of similar choices and you find places, both public and private, that have been “claimed” by the homeless, yuppies, young African-Americans, gays, kickball players, etc, etc, etc, many times to the exclusion of other potential users.  It’s kind of like trying to legislate integration – we mostly like to hang around people “like us”, and most of us would rather avoid confrontations while doing so . . . .

           
  11. Branwell1 says:

    I agree with you. If the homeless or vagrant population you refer to were using the park for passive, peaceful recreation and contemplation amid the urban scene, I would see no conflict. Unfortunately, it seems that often their reasons for being in the park include aggressive panhandling and other antisocial behavior that makes other visitors feel uncomfortable and unsafe. There is little to no regional approach to the regional problem of homelessness, except to concentrate that population and its service providers in the city, as much as possible. This historical “solution” corresponds neatly to the perception that the city is, and should be, a sort of campus for criminals and the indigent. Others who choose to live there and like it are viewed as perverse interlopers putting themselves in the path of social dysfunction and violence. This is a patently ridiculous distortion, but unfortunately, it plays, in politics and in general. I welcome the exciting, positive changes to downtown St. Louis in recent years. Some of them seemed to come so quickly that we can easily lose sight of the fact that such large transformations take time.   

     
  12. The “undesirables” use places nobody else wants. In the Fall of 2008 as loft residents spent more time in the park cleaning and holding events, many of the homeless dispersed.

     
  13. Douglas Duckworth says:

    I think the homeless didn’t kick people out of Lucas Park.  They were there in that park when downtown didn’t have residents wanting to use it.  Building fences around parks sounds like equivalent to becoming a gated community.  If we don’t want the homeless downtown drunk causing problems  and scaring people then more should be spent at all levels of government on addressing the root causes of homelessness or at least ensuring their landlord, the NLEC, is doing something to improve the economic positions of their homeless tenants.  It’s easy to blame the victims as they don’t put on the best PR campaign, but if you “move them” out of Lucas Park the issue will simply manifest other places.  That might then be someone else’s problem and make you sleep better, but that’s the exact same irresponsible position of St. Louis County and other regional governments and why so many homeless are downtown.  

     
  14. melissa says:

    My parents from Boise were visiting last week. We entered the park, found a bench, just to rest and relax. This was around 7:00 PM, Sunday evening. Around 7:10, a man probably 30 years old, unzipped his pants and urinated in the fountain, right in front of us! My father is 65 years old, and he was obviously embarrased sitting with his wife and daughter, all of us watching this as it happened. My parents have always question the safety of my living in downtown St. Louis, and this experience did nothing to help. I don’t think I’ll be using Lucas Park again for any family reunions!

     
  15. Chris says:

    I think this is turning into a chicken and egg discussion; people don’t use the part because of the homeless, the homeless move in because no one uses the park.  I don’t see why law-abiding people should have to use the park non-stop in order to keep the homeless out.  So you don’t manage to get an event together all 52 weekends of the year, and the result is you lose the park again?

     
  16. Chris says:

    Have you ever seen how nice parks in Manhattan are because they’re fenced and regulated?  Fences aren’t always about oppression, but protecting public resources as well.

     
  17. You don’t need events every weekend but you also can’t go 2.5 years without any event.

     
  18. You don’t need events every weekend but you also can’t go 2.5 years without any event.

     
  19. My concept in late 2008 called for fencing the entire park along the lines of classic urban parks in NYC.

     
  20. My concept in late 2008 called for fencing the entire park along the lines of classic urban parks in NYC.

     
  21. And thinking of needing to use Lucas Park on 52 weekends is the wrong approach. Parks must be used everyday, not just on the weekends: Tuesday morning, a Wednesday afternoon, a Thursday lunch, etc.

     
  22. Anonymous says:

    Agree.  If this were the case, there would be homeless camped out on the arch grounds and in Forest Park, as well. You find homeless in the park because this is public property, not private.  Trespassing laws can be used to keep unwanted people off private property; public property, especially parks and libraries, is open to all residents.  The simple fact is that this park is close(st) to high concentration of homeless people and their service providers, so there will always be homeless people in and near the park – the only way to reduce the number of homeless users would be to relocate the service providers that attract and serve them. 

    The choice really becomes one of individual interactions and “safety in numbers”.  If I, individually, feel intimidated by a group of people, for whatever reason, it’s usually easier to avoid the group than to confront them.  If I don’t feel like I “fit”, be it a park or a bar, the odds are I won’t stick around very long and I’ll find somewhere else to hang out.  Multiply that by thousands of similar choices and you find places, both public and private, that have been “claimed” by the homeless, yuppies, young African-Americans, gays, kickball players, etc, etc, etc, many times to the exclusion of other potential users.  It’s kind of like trying to legislate integration – we mostly like to hang around people “like us”, and most of us would rather avoid confrontations while doing so . . . .

     
  23. tlwalker says:

    What if we remove all the large green spaces by putting in plantings and sculpted areas (example is City Garden)?  If we eliminate the areas the homeless congregate that might at least ease the flow of homeless into the park.  I am a resident on Washington Avenue in that block and I would love to have a more manicured look to the park.  That old fountain with the benches all around it at the east end of the park (and the old children center play ground that is fenced off but not used) both need to be removed too.

     
  24. tlwalker says:

    What if we remove all the large green spaces by putting in plantings and sculpted areas (example is City Garden)?  If we eliminate the areas the homeless congregate that might at least ease the flow of homeless into the park.  I am a resident on Washington Avenue in that block and I would love to have a more manicured look to the park.  That old fountain with the benches all around it at the east end of the park (and the old children center play ground that is fenced off but not used) both need to be removed too.

     
    • Agreed, the park needs a more manicured look with plantings. However, the fountain & stone benches are the work of Nancy Coonsman Hahn. Those need to stay as important elements of the park.

       
  25. Agreed, the park needs a more manicured look with plantings. However, the fountain & stone benches are the work of Nancy Coonsman Hahn. Those need to stay as important elements of the park.

     

Comment on this Article:

Advertisement



FACEBOOK POSTS

Worst example is the 11th/Locust surface lot that already steals part of the public right-of-way, they shoved snow from their lot onto what little sidewalk remains. #srl ... See MoreSee Less

12 hours ago  ·  

After the gym I headed to Culinaria, but had to avoid the block owned by ⁦‪DowntownSTL,‬⁩ ramp to OPO side of Locust was blocked so had to roll in the street for a block to 9th. #stl ... See MoreSee Less

12 hours ago  ·  

Downtown #STL sidewalks better than prior years, was able to get to the gym with only a few problem areas. #wheelchair ... See MoreSee Less

15 hours ago  ·  

Archives

Categories

Advertisement


Subscribe