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Baer Plaza Now More A Dishonor Than An Honor, 25th Anniversary of Dedication Quickly Approaching

June 25, 2022 Downtown, Featured, Parks Comments Off on Baer Plaza Now More A Dishonor Than An Honor, 25th Anniversary of Dedication Quickly Approaching

I never met Robert J. Baer, but I see the plaza named for him all the time. Baer Plaza, across Broadway from The Dome (map), was named in his honor a little more than 20 years before his death in 2017.

Every year annuals are placed around the marker, at the base of the flag poles. This spot, visible when driving by on Broadway, always looks nice.
The large lawn area is always very attractive.

The 25th anniversary of the dedication is just 7 weeks from today, on Saturday August 13, 2022. I think it calls for recognition…and a little effort beforehand to improve the condition.

Improve condition? It looks nice, right?

First, read more about the man the plaza is named to honor.

 Mr. Baer retired in 2002 as president and chief operating officer of UniGroup, and its operating subsidiaries, which include household goods transportation companies United Van Lines, LLC and Mayflower Transit, LLC. He was a past chairman of the St. Louis Metropolitan Sewer District and a past president of the St. Louis Board of Police Commissioners, in addition to serving twice in area mass transit leadership positions. In the 1990s, he chaired the agency responsible for coordinating the expansion to America’s Center which included the domed stadium. Mr. Baer was born and raised in south St. Louis. He attended St. Francis de Sales High School, earning his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville. Beginning his career working for the City of St. Louis Division of Recreation in 1957, he served as deputy director of the Metropolitan St. Louis Human Development Corporation from 1964 to 1970. He was then employed for four years as chief of staff for Lawrence K. Roos, the County Executive of St. Louis County. In 1974, he was named executive director of Bi-State Development (which now operates the Metro public transportation system), a position he held for three years.

        In 1977, Mr. Baer joined United Van Lines as vice president and general manager. He was named United’s president in 1982 and, in 1988, was appointed president and chief operating officer of UniGroup, a newly formed holding company with United its largest operating entity. During Mr. Baer’s 25 years with United and UniGroup, the enterprise grew into one of the largest transportation corporations in the United States with consolidated annual revenues of $2 billion. In 1995, UniGroup acquired a second household goods mover, Mayflower Transit of Carmel, Ind. Mr. Baer served as chief operating officer of United, Mayflower, and sister UniGroup companies Vanliner (Insurance) Group, Inc., Total Transportation Services, and UniGroup Worldwide, Inc.

        Following his retirement from UniGroup, Mr. Baer continued to serve UniGroup for several years as a member of the Vanliner board of directors. He also was on the boards of Stifel Financial Corp., U.S. Bank, and Drury Hotels.

        In addition to his UniGroup corporate responsibilities, Mr. Baer contributed his time and leadership abilities to a variety of community service organizations and agencies over a period of more than 20 years. From 1985 to 1989, he was president of the St. Louis Board of Police Commissioners, overseeing the activities of the Metropolitan St. Louis Police Department which included the construction of the first new police stations in decades. In 1990, he accepted the chairmanship of the St. Louis Regional Convention and Sports Complex Authority, which was responsible for a $300 million expansion of the city’s convention center and construction of the domed stadium. A park on Broadway east of the dome was designated “Baer Plaza” in recognition of Mr. Baer’s role in the project.

        Mr. Baer was chairman of the board of trustees of the Metropolitan St. Louis Sewer District from March 2003 until March 2005, and he remained on that board until April 2006. His previous experience leading Bi-State Development was instrumental in his appointment, in December 2007, as acting head of Metro Transit. The “temporary” job grew into a three-year assignment, concluding in 2010 after voter approval of a ballot proposition to ensure the ongoing financial sustainability of public transit in St. Louis.

      Among his other civic activities, Mr. Baer was founder of the Thomas Dunn Memorial Adult Education Program in the mid-1950s. He was an emeritus member of Civic Progress. He was the recipient of numerous awards for many achievements throughout his career. (Kutis Funeral Home)

Again, I never met him. I can’t speak to how he was personally, as a boss, as a civic leader.  I imagine getting the city, county, and state to work together to build a stadium in the hope of getting an expansion team takes a lot of skill.

Plaque denoting the dedication on August 13, 1997 — 7 weeks from today.

Even if an event doesn’t acknowledge the 25th anniversary, or Baer’s contributions, the plaza should be cleaned up.

The paved portion of the plaza is where most of the cleaning needs to happen. You can kinda see how the center is darker than the perimeter.
The paved center has several drains — but all have been clogged for years.
Another clogged drain, with plenty of caked dirt around each.
With the drains clogged a good rain turns the plaza into a shallow pond. June 2021. This means groups can’t plan to use this space for events in case it rains just prior.
At the base of the trees there’s a collection of twigs & small branches.
There’s also a few areas with more compostable material.

The biggest project is getting the drains cleared. This means hiring a company to provide this service. Once the drains are cleaned out, the entire circular plaza needs to be power washed. It’s all filthy and looks it. The concrete and bricks are in good condition, they just need a good cleaning. Again, this is a project to hire out, maybe the downtown Clean Team?

The sports commission that operates the Dome and this plaza recently came into a bit of money, I think unclogging drains and cleaning the hard materials would be a good investment. Especially since the XFL will be returning in 2023.

All the hard surfaces along Broadway north toward Cole Street also need cleaning. Additionally toward the north end a few tree wells need a little sprucing up.

This is the worst tree well. It needs more dirt to fill in the low areas (left) — there’s dirt in the ADA ramp on Cole @ 6th that might do the trick.

Some of these northern tree wells could benefit from more liriope & lillies, like the others.

That’s it: unclog a few drains, power wash all pervious materials, a little dirt and a few plants.  If not done before the anniversary, perhaps the anniversary date is the day for a big project with volunteers.

— Steve Patterson

 

Renovated Kiener Plaza Reopened 5 Years Ago Today

May 19, 2022 Downtown, Featured, Parks, Plazas Comments Off on Renovated Kiener Plaza Reopened 5 Years Ago Today

Five years ago the trees at the renovated Kiener Plaza looked so new, provided no shade. Now they’ve matured nicely. Saturday we spent 2+ hours sitting in the shade.

Look at the size of the trees on the right, they provide actual shade now.
This February view shows the new visitor center building. The trees are bigger but hadn’t put on level for the seaso9n yet.
Same area, at the reopening in 2017
The awful May Amphitheater sunk into the west end of the previous Kiener Plaza.

It’s nice seeing Kiener Plaza be a space that can hold thousands of people and still function. Now if only we could do something about those two parking garages across Chestnut, to the north.

— Steve Patterson

 

New Nature Playscape In Forest Park Is Great For Unstructured Play, Nature Lovers

June 24, 2021 Environment, Featured, Parks Comments Off on New Nature Playscape In Forest Park Is Great For Unstructured Play, Nature Lovers

One hundred forty-five years ago (6/24/1876) Forest Park opened to the public, a very large natural area at the time. The Louisiana Purchase Exposition (aka World’s Fair) opened a little less than 28 years later on April 30, 1904.

As a result, Forest Park was no longer natural, with a few exceptions like Kennedy Forest. Still when it was announced a few years ago that a “nature playscape” was to be built in a park I kinda laughed. Uh, a park outdoors is in nature. Like I said, the park no longer resembled nature.

This free new attraction opened June 2, 2021

This isn’t a playground as we know them, with swings, slides, etc. Instead it is a natural landscape designed for unstructured play.

Unstructured play is a category of play (as opposed to a type of play) in which children engage in open-ended play that has no specific learning objective. Unlike structured play, unstructured play is not instructor-led, so parents, teachers, and other adults do not give directions. It also does not have a particular strategy behind it.

Unstructured play is often informally referred to as simply “letting kids be kids” or “just play.” At times, you may also hear it called “free play” or self-play.”

As a kid I spent hours playing outdoors with my friends, but that was the 1970s when parents didn’t hover. Today’s kids are kept on a very short leash.

This new space, one of only a few nationally, is worth a visit.

The Anne O’C. Albrecht Nature Playscape is a 17-acre experiential play space with natural landscapes that include native and diverse species. Featuring nine distinct activity distinct activity areas, the free destination includes sand play areas, willow tunnels, stump steppers, boulders and rocks, hand water pumps and much more. The goal: Encourage visitors — especially kids — to connect with nature as they engage their senses as they explore, discover and learn. (Forest Park Forever)

Before I begin to explain why it’s worth a visit, let’s talk about where it is and now to get there. This new space is just southeast of the World’s Fair Pavilion, see PDF map. Photo of the site with the activity areas labeled here.

Ideally you’d take the #90 (Hampton) MetroBus like I did. There are bus stops for both northbound and southbound #90 buses very close on Concourse Drive (the street on the east side of the Zoo). Biking, walking, jogging, etc are also excellent ways to enter the park.
If you drive there is a variety of parking around the three entrances. Some is parallel on the road, others are diagonal on pervious surfaces. There is accessible parking at each entrance.

It’s 17 acres so it’s huge, but don’t expect to see big fancy entrance gates. There are no fences or gates, it’s just a free part of the park open for everyone during park hours.

The biggest of the 3 entrances is near the traffic circle near the Zoo & World’s Fair Pavilion. All 3 entrances have the wood post with a map of the layout.
Another entrance is close to the east side of the World’s Fair Pavilion.
The 3rd entrance is down the hillside on Carr Lane Drive.

All entrances have nearby car parking, bike racks, a map on the post, etc. Don’t look for any printed maps because they didn’t want the waste/trash. Year-round restrooms are in the World’s Fair Comfort Station, just south of the World’s Fair Pavilion — close to the first two entrances. Seasonal restrooms are also inside the 17 acre space, near the 3rd entrance. There is potable water for refilling water bottles as well as non-drinkable water near some activity zones to help clean the kids up, to wash off all the nature.

Ok, let’s go inside.

The main path, more than a mile long, is crushed stone. It was a good solid surface for my power wheelchair. Side paths are wood bark, which my chair also handled fine.
All the plants are native perennials, those new to the paths from containers (40k). Further away areas were seeded. The little sign asks that you not step onto the tender plants. Plants aren’t identified, this isn’t a botanical garden. However, my guide showed me a free app that will identify plants, animals, insects, fungi, etc. — click image for app info.
For the most part the topography of the 17-acre site wasn’t changed, so your view changes with every turn of the path.
At the top of a hill is a spring. OK, it’s not natural — a mechanical pump keeps the water flowing.
The water, naturally, flows downhill.
The wetlands area is apparently very popular.
The spring/wetlands becomes a dry stream at the bottom of the hill.
Play spaces vary in size. Seating on stones or logs for parents is around the perimeter. One pic I have with two kids playing had the dad right in there with them. I know it’s hard, but parents need to let their kids figure stuff out on their own. Just sit back and watch.

As a huge fan of native perennials I love the space, so much more rewarding than a formal space. Reminded me of hiking at Shaw Nature Reserve years ago, except accessible by public transit and wheelchair friendly. Seating is frequent and varied, with space for strollers and/or wheelchairs out of the path.

I want to return with my husband, and meet friends and their kids here. On my one recent visit those using the space didn’t appear to represent the wide ethnic diversity 0f the region, hopefully that’ll change.

I saw couples without kids using this for their walk/exercise, so don’t think you need kids to show up. If you’ve got young kids, nieces/nephews, cousins, etc please bring them here for a visit. Happy 145th birthday to Forest Park!

— Steve Patterson

 

Still Not Used To Seeing Citygarden Empty, Fountains Off

September 3, 2020 Downtown, Parks Comments Off on Still Not Used To Seeing Citygarden Empty, Fountains Off

When Citygarden opened on June 30, 2009 there wasn’t the usual ribbon cutting. Instead then-mayor Francis Slay called the maintenance building and asked them to turn on the fountains. With the exception of winters and one period they had a maintenance issue the fountains have been on. During warm months someone was always getting wet.

It has been nearly six months since this pandemic began and I’m still not used to seeing Citygarden devoid of human activity.

August 31, 2020 @ 7am

To counter the desolation here’s a photo I took almost six years ago.

Citygarden on September 8, 2014 @ 8pm, with the fountains & lights on
Close up of splash fountain at Citygarden, from 2011

There will be a time when the fountains and lights will be back on, but that’s likely more than a year from now. Looking forward, trying to be patient.

— Steve Patterson

 

New Book — ‘Parks and Recreation System Planning: A New Approach for Creating Sustainable, Resilient Communities’ by David Barth

August 19, 2020 Books, Featured, Parks Comments Off on New Book — ‘Parks and Recreation System Planning: A New Approach for Creating Sustainable, Resilient Communities’ by David Barth

Times have changed considerably in the nearly 75 years since the city released the 1947 Comprehensive Plan, with a section on Public Recreation Facilities. Has our approach kept up with needs of the city, region? A new book is looking to push these forward.

Parks and recreation systems have evolved in remarkable ways over the past two decades. No longer just playgrounds and ballfields, parks and open spaces have become recognized as essential green infrastructure with the potential to contribute to community resiliency and sustainability. To capitalize on this potential, the parks and recreation system planning process must evolve as well. In Parks and Recreation System Planning, David Barth provides a new, step-by-step approach to creating parks systems that generate greater economic, social, and environmental benefits.

Barth first advocates that parks and recreation systems should no longer be regarded as isolated facilities, but as elements of an integrated public realm. Each space should be designed to generate multiple community benefits. Next, he presents a new approach for parks and recreation planning that is integrated into community-wide issues. Chapters outline each step—evaluating existing systems, implementing a carefully crafted plan, and more—necessary for creating a successful, adaptable system. Throughout the book, he describes initiatives that are creating more resilient, sustainable, and engaging parks and recreation facilities, drawing from his experience consulting in more than 100 communities across the U.S.

Parks and Recreation System Planning meets the critical need to provide an up-to-date, comprehensive approach for planning parks and recreation systems across the country. This is essential reading for every parks and recreation professional, design professional, and public official who wants their community to thrive. (Island Press)

This book is for design professionals, bureaucrats , elected officials, and community leaders involved in parks and recreation systems. The contents shows the level of detail:

Introduction: A Framework for Community Sustainability and Resiliency

Part I: Generating Multiple Benefits
Chapter 1. Parks and the Public Realm
Chapter 2. Multiple Dimensions of Parks and Recreation Systems
Chapter 3. High-Performance Public Spaces

Part II: Planning a Comprehensive Approach
Chapter 4. A New Approach to Parks and Recreation System Planning
Chapter 5. Initiating and Planning the PRSMP Process
Chapter 6. The Preliminary Implementation Framework

Part III: Executing the New Approach
Chapter 7. Existing Conditions Analysis
Chapter 8. The Needs Assessment
Chapter 9. Level-of-Service Alternatives
Chapter 10. Developing a Long-Range Vision
Chapter 11. Implementation Strategy

Conclusion: The Power of Parks and Recreation System Planning

You can read a preview at Google Books here, it can be ordered directly from Island Press, locally independent bookstore Left Bank, or that online store. Note: I don’t make anything from these links, just trying to be helpful.

— Steve Patterson

 

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