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New Book — ‘Oldest St. Louis’ by NiNi Harris

December 17, 2020 Books, Featured, History/Preservation Comments Off on New Book — ‘Oldest St. Louis’ by NiNi Harris

I’ve been fortunate enough to know local historian & author NiNi Harris for more than two decades. I posted about her books before, and another is now available.

From iconic buildings like the Old Cathedral to the Polish butcher shop in North City, Oldest St. Louis explores the history of St. Louis through the history of the city’s oldest institutions, streets, and businesses. From the oldest library book, to the oldest museum, Oldest St. Louis traces the history of the city’s rich cultural life. From the oldest Italian bar to the oldest bowling alley, the book recalls St. Louis’s ethnic traditions. In following the stories of the oldest businesses and institutions, the book becomes a sensory tour of St. Louis featuring the crunchy oatmeal cookies made in the Dutchtown neighborhood the same way for 82 years, the fragrance in the 138 year old Greenhouse in mid-winter and the beauty of St. Louis’s 184 year-old Lafayette Park. Oldest St. Louis is also a nostalgic look at recent history from the space-age design of South County Mall, to a cherry Coke made with a secret recipe since the Chuck-A-Burger drive-in restaurant opened in St. Ann in 1957. (Reedy Press)

The contents are long, all starting with “Oldest…” I knew some, but not all. I had to quickly turn page by page to see the oldest this and that. In my 30+ years in St. Louis I’ve been to many of them: oldest soda fountain, convent, soul food diner, etc.

Each Oldest subject is headed by the year. The oldest Oldest is a tie — from 1474! Most are 19th & 20th century. Harris talks about each Oldest.

If you’re a St. Louis fan then this book needs to be on your bookshelf.

— Steve Patterson

 

New Book — ‘Right of Way: Race, Class, and the Silent Epidemic of Pedestrian Deaths in America’ by Angie Schmitt

December 11, 2020 Books, Featured, Walkability Comments Off on New Book — ‘Right of Way: Race, Class, and the Silent Epidemic of Pedestrian Deaths in America’ by Angie Schmitt

For months now we’ve all been living through the COVID-19 pandemic, but a silent epidemic has been going on for years: pedestrian deaths. Every week we hear about a pedestrian being hit & killed by a car. Often these are seniors just trying to cross a busy street — like 87- year old Phyllis Powers — she was hit & killed trying to cross MacKenzie Road to vote a month ago.

A recent book looks into the issue:

The face of the pedestrian safety crisis looks a lot like Ignacio Duarte-Rodriguez. The 77-year old grandfather was struck in a hit-and-run crash while trying to cross a high-speed, six-lane road without crosswalks near his son’s home in Phoenix, Arizona. He was one of the more than 6,000 people killed while walking in America in 2018. In the last ten years, there has been a 50 percent increase in pedestrian deaths.

The tragedy of traffic violence has barely registered with the media and wider culture. Disproportionately the victims are like Duarte-Rodriguez—immigrants, the poor, and people of color. They have largely been blamed and forgotten.

In Right of Way, journalist Angie Schmitt shows us that deaths like Duarte-Rodriguez’s are not unavoidable “accidents.” They don’t happen because of jaywalking or distracted walking. They are predictable, occurring in stark geographic patterns that tell a story about systemic inequality. These deaths are the forgotten faces of an increasingly urgent public-health crisis that we have the tools, but not the will, to solve. 

Schmitt examines the possible causes of the increase in pedestrian deaths as well as programs and movements that are beginning to respond to the epidemic. Her investigation unveils why pedestrians are dying—and she demands action.  Right of Way is a call to reframe the problem, acknowledge the role of racism and classism in the public response to these deaths, and energize advocacy around road safety. Ultimately, Schmitt argues that we need improvements in infrastructure and changes to policy to save lives.

Right of Way unveils a crisis that is rooted in both inequality and the undeterred reign of the automobile in our cities. It challenges us to imagine and demand safer and more equitable cities, where no one is expendable. (Island Press)

I want to talk about some issues addressed in this book, but first, here are the contents:

Introduction: Outline of an Epidemic
Chapter 1. The Geography of Risk
Chapter 2. The Profile of a Victim
Chapter 3. Blaming the Victim
Chapter 4. The Criminalization of Walking
Chapter 5. Killer Cars
Chapter 6. The Ideology of Flow
Chapter 7. A Hard Right Turn
Chapter 8. Pedestrian Safety on the Technological Frontier
Chapter 9. The International Context
Chapter 10. Families for Safe Streets

Yes, pedestrian deaths are an epidemic. A pandemic, like COVID-19, is worldwide. An epidemic, like pedestrian deaths, is largely a problem in one area such as the U.S.

Increasingly older adults are unable to continue driving, finding themselves in suburbs not designed for pedestrians. Timing of infrequent crosswalk lights are too fast for slow walkers. For many it’s too far to reach a designated point to cross an arterial so people attempt to cross where they can because they can’t do the extra distance.

The alarming rise in pedestrian deaths coincides with the switch from passenger cars to larger and larger pickups & SUVs. Why? A primary reason is the higher mass on the front of these vehicles — hitting people in their torso rather than legs.

These problems are worse in low-income & minority neighborhoods. The population that needs better pedestrian facilities often don’t get them.

The book details the problems and offers solutions.

Pedestrian safety expert Dan Burden (right) leads a “walking audit” on Delmar just west of Union in 2011 — that’s me in the wheelchair. Photo credit: Lou /AARP

This book is for anyone interested in addressing pedestrian safety and removing inequalities in our rights of way. The author and others discuss the epidemic of pedestrian deaths in a video here.

You can order from the publisher.

— Steve Patterson

 

New Book — ‘Growing Up St. Louis: Looking Back Through the Decades’ by Jim Merkel

September 25, 2020 Books, Featured Comments Off on New Book — ‘Growing Up St. Louis: Looking Back Through the Decades’ by Jim Merkel

Though I’ve lived in St. Louis for over three decades, I didn’t grow up here. This book is fascinating because you can read stories from over 100 people who did grow up here.

No matter when or where we grow up, the stories, people, and places that populate our memories leave an indelible mark on the manuscript that becomes our life story. A day at the Louisiana Purchase Exposition in 1904, meatless meals and hard times during the Great Depression, or knowing Mark McGwire’s precise homerun count that summer of 1998 become galvanized in our own timelines, while other details fade into the background.

In Growing Up St. Louis, hear the stories that stuck with more than a hundred native St. Louisans over the last century, told by the very people who lived through them. Ranging from joyous to humdrum, and even to the grim, these childhood memories offer a glimpse of life in still frame, from the start of the twentieth century to the present day. A young girl is transfixed by the Beatles debut on Ed Sullivan and a future local sportscaster falls in love with sports as he and his dad watch the 1968 World Series.

With new and old photographs to accompany the essays, join veteran author Jim Merkel on a journey through ten decades of coming of age in St. Louis. Whether they spark nostalgia or empathy, they’ll surely provoke commentary about how deeply our tender years impact us for the rest of our lives. (Reedy Press)

I haven’t read all the stories, but I’ve read quite a few. Merkel has done a good job of presenting a variety of people. City & county, black & white, rich & poor, etc.

I can only imagine the stories to be told in 50-60 years about growing up in the 2020s.

— Steve Patterson

 

New Book — ‘Forest Park: A Walk Through History’ by Carolyn Mueller

September 22, 2020 Books, Featured Comments Off on New Book — ‘Forest Park: A Walk Through History’ by Carolyn Mueller

Forest Park, opened in 1876, is larger than NYC’s Central Park. It had already been open over a quarter century when the Word’s Fair opened in 1904 in the park.  Today’s book is a guidebook to help you walk through thr park, exploring the many areas and historic  structures. Because the park is so large the book has eight different walks.

Perched just inside the city, Forest Park has functioned as a proverbial playground for generations of St. Louisans and tourists alike. While you could explore this green expanse of trees and pathways by many modes of transportation, the best way to know its paths and treasures is on foot. With Forest Park: A Walk through History as your guide, you’ll be able to take the time to appreciate the park’s historical markers and natural wonders.

Discover the hills, fields, and winding ribbons of water traversing the park. Find the Louisiana Purchase Exposition. From the monuments to the memorials and the waterfowl to the wildflowers, Kennedy Forest, the Bridge to Picnic Island, and the Saint Louis Zoo.

Local author Carolyn Mueller brings an insider’s perspective after spending a decade living near the park and countless hours exploring its bike paths and running trails. Check out her favorite spots like Kennedy Forest, the Bridge to Picnic Island, and the Saint Louis Zoo, or discover your own as you venture into this crown jewel of St. Louis. (Reedy Press)

I’ve not yet taken the book to Forest Park to follow one of the tours, but with Fall weather I’ll do it soon.

— 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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