Home » Metro East » Recent Articles:

Last Mile to Cahokia Mounds Is Impossible For Pedestrians

September 27, 2021 Accessibility, Featured, Metro East, Walkability Comments Off on Last Mile to Cahokia Mounds Is Impossible For Pedestrians

I’ve working on my bucket list in the last two years living with stage IV kidney cancer. Right after Memorial Day I was able to visit Milwaukee, my very first time in Wisconsin. I’m also working on items closer to home that I can safely do during a pandemic. To help me I pulled the 2013 book 100 Things To Do In Saint Louis Before You Die off my bookshelf.  One of several books written or co-authored by my longtime friend Amanda Doyle.

Well, I don’t see myself being able to physically sled down Art Hill, or use a paddle boat in Forest Park. Hmm, visit Cahokia Mounds? I’ve always wanted to see it, it’s likely the only additional  World Heritage site I’ll be able to visit — I’ve been to Independence Hall & many Frank Lloyd Wright buildings, including Fallingwater.

Embarrassingly in my 31+ years living in St. Louis I must admit I’ve never once visited Cahokia Mounds, a World Heritage site only a 15-minute drive into Illinois from St. Louis. Like so many places I thought I could go  &  things I could do in the future, until I became disabled a month before my 41st birthday. I had lived here less than 18 years before I had a massive stroke, meaning I couldn’t walk around the large Cahokia Mounds site. My power wheelchair allows me to “walk” around places like the Missouri Botanical Gardens.

In case you’re unfamiliar with Cahokia Mounds:

The remains of the most sophisticated prehistoric native civilization north of Mexico are preserved at Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site. Within the 2,200-acre tract, located a few miles west of Collinsville, Illinois, lie the archaeological remnants of the central section of the ancient settlement that is today known as Cahokia. (Cahokia Mounds Museum Society)

The fastest way there is for me and my husband to just drive there. But, I couldn’t see much because I can’t walk far. I also have a manual wheelchair we can put in the trunk, but he’d have to push me or I use my right foot and right hand to propel myself. One of us would get worn out.

I’ve traveled to five different states using transit and my power wheelchair so I should be able to go less than 10 miles. So I looked. Yes, I can roll 8/10 of a mile to the Convention Center MetroLink light rail station, take the train east to the Emerson Park station, and then catch the #18 Madison County bus northbound to Fairmont Ave at Collinsville Rd. Then it’s just a mile west along Collinsville Rd to the entrance to Cahokia Mounds State Historic Site (map).

A mile isn’t an issue at all, a week ago I rolled almost 5 miles home from Siteman Cancer Center. Yes, returning home on MetroLink would’ve been considerably faster but I got to see a lot of stuff along my route. I’m on disability so I’m usually not in a hurry. So what’s the problem?

The problem is Collinsville Road is a high-speed (45mph) 4-lane roadway with zero pedestrian infrastructure. None. No pedestrian signals or crosswalks at the signalized intersection near the bus stop. A few businesses near the intersection have a public sidewalk but they’re not connected to each other. Most of the mile distance is just a very tiny shoulder and a ditch. If I were somehow to make it I’d need to cross Collinsville Rd. Opposite the entrance to Cahokia Mounds is a pedestrian sign, but trying to cross 4 lanes of high-speed traffic is a death wish.

Approaching Cahokia Mounds from the east you see it on the left. On the right is a pedestrian crossing ahead sign, next to the ditch.
Further up as you get close to the entrance the road splits so there’s a center turn lane. On the right is a Cahokia Mounds sign pointing drivers left. The driveway to the right has a culvert under it so any water in the ditch can continue to flow.

My thoughts turned to contacting someone to bug them about this. But who? Most of the north side of Collinsville Rd is in Namioki Township, Madison County. Part of the south side of Collinsville Rd & Cahokia Mounds are in Collinsville, St. Clair County. Yes, most of Collinsville is in Madison County, but this part is in St. Clair County. And finally  the the intersection of Collinsville Rd & Fairmont Ave/Black Lane is State Park Place, an unincorporated community in both Madison & St  Clair Counties. Maddening fragmentation!

I suppose an able-bodied person could navigate this last mile, but I doubt anyone would.  Back at State Park Place there’s business on both sides of Collinsville Rd, including a Mexican restaurant on each side. I read somewhere a while ago that one is among the best Mexican restaurants in the Metro East.

My first task will be to contact Cahokia Mounds to see if they have any power wheelchairs/scooters for rent, their website doesn’t mention accessibility at all. I’ll also contact the Highway Dept at each county, though it might take state and/or federal funds to get anything built. I just want to get things…rolling.

Steve Patterson

 

Rampant COVID violations at Fast Eddie’s Bon Air freaked me out Saturday

May 4, 2021 Featured, Local Business, Metro East, St. Charles County, Travel Comments Off on Rampant COVID violations at Fast Eddie’s Bon Air freaked me out Saturday

We knew Saturday would be a gorgeous day so we decided to drive up the Great River Road along the Mississippi River north of Alton IL. Our first stop would be a favorite, Fast Eddie’s Bon Air. We knew it had been cited for Covid violations in October 2020:

A longtime and popular restaurant in Alton was recently cited for not complying with COVID-19 restrictions in the area.

Illinois State Police said based on a complaint, they did a COVID-19 compliance check on Fast Eddie’s Bon Air. Officers issued a notice of non-compliance to the manager on duty and advised them on a time frame to get into compliance, police said.

After about an hour, Illinois State Police officers returned and issued a dispersal order and then after another 30 minutes, officers returned and issued a Madison County non-traffic complaint. Police said the manager signed and accepted the written complaint on behalf of Fast Eddie’s. (KSDK)

That was over six months ago, they likely learned how to comply. Or so I thought. I was thinking maybe tables wouldn’t be spaced as far apart as they should be for proper social distancing. We’re both fully vaccinated so I thought we could take a chance.

We arrived before they opened so we’d be among the first to enter. This photo was taken at 10:55am, 5 minutes before the door was unlocked.

We were the third group in the door, but our order number was 2nd. A long line of bikers was behind us. Inside I got us a table while my husband ordered.

As I waited I began noticing how different this was than every other restaurant we’d patronized during the pandemic:

  • No employees are wearing masks. Not our drink server, not the manager walking around, not anyone behind the counter.
  • Customers are walking around inside without masks. No mask while ordering, finding a table, going to the bathroom, picking up their order.
  • Only a few other customers wore a mask.

I told my husband we had to eat quickly and leave. Had we not left quickly I’d have likely confronted the manager, which would have ruined the day we had planned.

Here’s a few pics from the rest of the beautiful day.

Downtown Alton IL is so charming, wonderful scale and the hills create interesting views. Click image for Downtown Alton website.
Next we drove through the historic village of Elsah IL– one of our favorites. Click image for Elsah tourism info.
We stopped at the Elsah General Store and got some baked goods for dessert, ate them outside. The shop owner wore a mask. They even accepted payment via ApplePay! Yes, click the image to view their website & hours.
When we reached the free Brussels Ferry we crossed the Illinois River. This ferry is operated by the Illinois Department of Transportation. Click image for more information.
I’ve done this trip numerous times over the last 30 years, but this was the first time I went a few miles out of our way to see Brussels IL. This is the village hall. Click the image to see the Wikipedia page, learn things like it was founded in 1822!
We continued driving through Calhoun County IL until we reached the Golden Eagle Ferry to cross the Mississippi River into St. Charles County MO. Click image for more information.
New Town at St. Charles was an easy stop as we headed for I-370. As predicted, it looks much better now that the trees have matured. Click the image for the official New Town website.

At the end of our day we stopped at a convenience store near New Town. The employee and some fellow customers were wearing masks, but customers came & went without any masks.

The pandemic is still going on, people are still getting sick & dying.

— Steve Patterson

 

Pandemic St. Louis Style: Policy Fragmentation & Cognitive Dissonance

November 28, 2020 Featured, Metro East, Missouri, Politics/Policy, Retail, St. Charles County, St. Louis County, STL Region Comments Off on Pandemic St. Louis Style: Policy Fragmentation & Cognitive Dissonance

Early this week the KMOV News (CBS/4.1) had a story on the Jefferson County Health Department approving a mask mandate — and the upset group protesting outside. The very next story was the St. Louis Area Task Force saying hospital beds, including ICU, beds were filling up with COVID-19 patients.

People were protesting wearing masks in public while area hospitals are announcing they’re filling up quickly. There’s a term for this: cognitive dissonance.

The mental conflict that occurs when beliefs or assumptions are contradicted by new information. The unease or tension that the conflict arouses in people is relieved by one of several defensive maneuvers: they reject, explain away, or avoid the new information; persuade themselves that no conflict really exists; reconcile the differences; or resort to any other defensive means of preserving stability or order in their conceptions of the world and of themselves. The concept was developed in the 1950s by American psychologist Leon Festinger and became a major point of discussion and research. (Britannica)

Metro requires riders to wear masks on buses and trains. Metro doesn’t serve Jefferson or St. Charles counties.

How does this relate to masks?

Because of the intense polarization in our country, a great many Americans now see the life-and-death decisions of the coronavirus as political choices rather than medical ones. In the absence of a unifying narrative and competent national leadership, Americans have to choose whom to believe as they make decisions about how to live: the scientists and the public-health experts, whose advice will necessarily change as they learn more about the virus, treatment, and risks? Or President Donald Trump and his acolytes, who suggest that masks and social distancing are unnecessary or “optional”? (The Atlantic)

I don’t like wearing masks, but it’s the right thing to do around anyone other than my husband. The worst days are when I have treatment at Siteman Cancer Center, my mask is on for hours.

Then on Wednesday I saw a news story at Lambert airport on holiday. An airport spokesperson was explaining how everyone inside the terminal had to wear a mask — except she was inside the terminal and not wearing a mask! Two different travelers inside the terminal, both with masks, said they weren’t concerned because they were taking precautions — but their nostrils were visible!

My mom was a waitress for many years, so I feel for food service employees and restaurant owners. A recent story showed an owner upset at recent St. County restrictions prohibiting indoor dining. They argued it was unfair, if people could go into Target & shop they should be able to dine in. Uh, except that shoppers have to keep their masks on in retail stores — inside bars & restaurants the masks come off after being seated. Apples to oranges.

As I was writing this yesterday I saw a story on dine in supporters in St. Louis County. I wish as much effort was put into improving the carryout experience (ordering & packaging).

We’re back to limits on items because some placed their own important over that of the community.

A lot of this cognitive dissonance is due to the vastly different pandemic policies in different jurisdictions in the region. At least the Illinois side of the region has one uniform policy imposed by Governor Pritzker.  Here in Missourah Gov Parson has taken a hands-off approach, resulting in an infection rate double that of Illinois.   As a result each county has to go at it alone even though residents frequently cross over borders. Other than the hospital’s pandemic task force we have no regional leadership.

Our hospitals are full and their workers are exhausted. All because people aren’t willing to wear a mask in public or eat their restaurant dinner at home.

– Steve Patterson

 

East St. Louis & Tulsa’s Greenwood Neighborhood Rebuilt After White Mobs Rioted In 1917 & 1921, Respectively

July 1, 2020 Featured, History/Preservation, Metro East Comments Off on East St. Louis & Tulsa’s Greenwood Neighborhood Rebuilt After White Mobs Rioted In 1917 & 1921, Respectively

There are many similarities between race riots in East St. Louis IL and four years later, Tulsa OK (1917 & 1921, respectively).  Both involved angry white mobs killing blacks and destroying their homes & businesses.

A burned out building at Missouri & Division, East St. Louis, May 2011

Both were also rebuilt.

In 1910, 90 percent of African Americans lived in the South, the vast majority were sharecropping in rural areas. But hostilities in Europe had almost stopped the flow of white workers to northern factories, while increasing the demand for product from munitions and weapons manufactures. This gave unions more negotiating power, and wages were inching up. So employers started recruiting black workers from the south as strike breakers and replacement workers. About a half-million black workers moved to Chicago, Detroit, Ohio, Philadelphia and St. Louis between 1910 and 1920.

The worst recorded incident of labor-related racial violence occurred in St. Louis in 1917. When the Aluminum Ore Company brought in African American workers to break a strike, 3,000 white union members marched in protest. The marchers morphed into a mob, attacking random black residents on the street. The following day, shots were exchanged between whites and black in the black part of town; two plainclothes police officers were killed. When the news got out, roving white mobs rampaged through black East St. Louis, burning homes and businesses, and assaulting men, women and children. Between 100 and 200 black working people died and 6,000 were left homeless. It foreshadowed things to come.

A year later, four million soldiers returned from World War I. With no plan for absorbing them into the economy, unemployment rose rapidly. Both white and black veterans felt betrayed. In the “Red Summer” of 1919, 38 separate race riots occurred, all of them white mobs attacking blacks. The worst riot occurred in Chicago. After a black youth was stoned for swimming into the “white” part of the lake, Irish and black gangs battled each other for 13 days. When it was over, 23 blacks and 15 whites were dead, 537 were injured and 1,000 black families were homeless. Across the country, more than 100 people died that summer, while scores of black homes and businesses were destroyed. (AFLCIO)

St. Louis meanwhile, in 1914, agreed to allow the Daughters of the Confederacy install a pro-confederacy monument in Forest Park (removed in 2017). Two years later, in 1916, St. Louis voters overwhelmingly approved a pro-segregation zoning ordinance. A riot across the river in 1917 unfortunately was another in a series of whites being…racists.

In the summer of 1916, 2,500 white employees of the meatpacking industry near East St. Louis went on strike for higher wages, and the companies imported black workers to replace them. Ultimately the workers won a wage increase but the companies retained nearly 800 blacks, firing as many whites after the strike, according to the former president of the Central Trades and Labor Union of East St. Louis. This result only exacerbated the growing racial tension.

In the spring of 1917, the mostly white workers of the Aluminum Ore Company in East St. Louis voted to strike. The company recruited hundreds of black workers to replace them. Tensions between the groups escalated. At a labor meeting held in City Hall on May 28 and made up mostly of white workers, rumors circulated of black men fraternizing with white women. (Wikipedia)

On July 1, 1917 the worst of the East St. Louis rioting of 1917 took place — 103 years ago today.

Missouri between 12th & 13th, East St. Louis. August 2012

Today parts of East St. Louis are ruins.

Tulsa, like many cities and towns throughout the US, was hostilely segregated, with African Americans settling into the northern region of the city.  As we often saw before integration, Blacks in the area created entrepreneurial opportunities for themselves, which housed an impressive business center that included banks, hotels, cafes, clothiers, movie theaters, and contemporary homes.  Greenwood residents enjoyed many luxuries that their White neighbors did not, including indoor plumbing and a remarkable school system that superiorly educated Black children. (Ebony)

If there was a silver lining to segregation it was that it forced black money to be spent at black-owned businesses.

The massacre began over Memorial Day weekend after 19-year-old Dick Rowland, a black shoeshiner, was accused of assaulting Sarah Page, the 17-year-old white elevator operator of the nearby Drexel Building. He was taken into custody. After the arrest, rumors spread through the city that Dick Rowland was to be lynched. Upon hearing reports that a mob of hundreds of white men had gathered around the jail where Dick Rowland was being kept, a group of 75 black men, some of whom were armed, arrived at the jail with the intention of helping to ensure Dick Rowland would not be lynched. The sheriff persuaded the group of black men to leave the jail, assuring them that he had the situation under control. As the group of black men was leaving the premises, complying with the sheriff’s request, a member of the mob of white men attempted to disarm one of the black men. A shot was fired, and then according to the reports of the sheriff, “all hell broke loose”. At the end of the firefight, 12 people were killed: 10 white and 2 black. As news of these deaths spread throughout the city, mob violence exploded. White rioters rampaged through the black neighborhood that night and morning killing men and burning and looting stores and homes, and only around noon the next day did Oklahoma National Guard troops manage to get control of the situation by declaring martial law. About 10,000 black people were left homeless, and property damage amounted to more than $1.5 million in real estate and $750,000 in personal property (equivalent to $32.25 million in 2019). Their property was never recovered nor were they compensated for it. (Wikipedia)

Molotov cocktails were dropped from small planes onto roofs of buildings, a first on US soil.

Following the events known as the 1921 Tulsa Race Riot, the area was rebuilt and thrived (with more than 100 MORE African-American businesses in place than there were before the riot itself) until the 1960s when desegregation allowed blacks to shop in areas from which they were previously restricted. (Greenwood Cultural Center)

East St. Louis, like Tulsa, quickly rebuilt. Today we see ruins, disinvestment, etc and fail to discuss the fact these communities did rebuild. Both East St. Louis and the Greenwood area were negatively impacted by demolition for highways, bank redlining, etc.

Riots didn’t destroy these communities, but systematic racist planning did. Of course, we new freedom to live, shop outside previously segregated areas it’s very possible these areas would’ve declined anyway.

— Steve Patterson

 

Malcolm W. Martin Memorial Park, Home of the Gateway Geyser, Dedicated 15 Years Ago Today

June 18, 2020 Featured, Metro East, Parks Comments Off on Malcolm W. Martin Memorial Park, Home of the Gateway Geyser, Dedicated 15 Years Ago Today

It was 15 years ago today that the Malcolm W. Martin Memorial Park was formally dedicated.

The park overlook on December 10, 2010. Click image to see live webcam view.

The park is dedicated to the man who pushed for the creation of the Gateway Geyser more than 25 years ago:

The tallest water fountain in the United States and third tallest in the world, capable of rising to 630 feet, the Gateway Geyser began operating on May 27, 1995, helping to fulfill Malcolm W. Martin’s vision of creating a landmark along the Illinois riverfront that would complement the Gateway Arch. The Gateway Geyser was established with the help of the Gateway Center of Metropolitan St. Louis, a non-profit group founded by Malcolm, whose members raised $4 million in private donations to construct the geyser. (The park with a view)

Source: Metro East Park and Recreation District
June 2015

It used to operate multiple times per day, but now only at noon — weather permitting, of course. The equipment is aging.

The Gateway Geyser is typically accompanied by four smaller fountains around the perimeter of the pond. These fountains are not expected to come back online until the 2020 season. Why? The pump is being rebuilt. This repair does not affect the operation of the Gateway Geyser. Sorry for any inconvenience.

This park is one of my favorite spaces in the the region, a reason why my husband and I got married here just over 6 years ago this month.

I’m the shorter one on the left, photo taken while our friend Dionna Raedeke sang ‘The Very Thought of You’

Another reason we picked this park, located in East St. Louis Illinois, for our wedding is we still couldn’t legally get married in Missouri — but Missouri is in all our photos anyway!

Now that wheelchair access to the west end of the Eads Bridge has been fixed, I can visit this park more often.

— Steve Patterson

 

Advertisement



[custom-facebook-feed]

Archives

Categories

Advertisement


Subscribe