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McGuire on Forest Park/BJC “Deal”

Former Alderman and Director of Parks Dan McGuire has been making the rounds of public meetings letting his thoughts be known on the subject of BJC getting a long-term lease on 12 acres of Forest Park that, due to a road construction project, appear to be “isolated.” Given that most of our city’s 105 city parks (see list) are under 5 acres I just don’t see how you can call 12 isolated but then again the mayor’s office likes to twist things in odd ways.

I first heard Dan McGuire speak on this issue at the May 3, 2006 Planning Commission meeting, a great presentation by the way. He recently updated his comments which you can read here. It is a 5-page PDF document that explains in great detail his background as both the alderman for the area as well as the director of parks.

Last week he sent letters to the small committee looking into the deal. From the letter:

Much has been made of the assertion that this amended lease would provide a “dedicated source” of
revenue for the day-to-day operations and maintenance of Forest Park by combining new revenues from
BJH and matching annual donations from Forest Park Forever (FPF). While, once again, this is a noble
this catchy phrase doesn’t really capture the totality of the deal and, perhaps, simply serves as a

In this letter he does again into detail talking about the financing and how the plan was to ensure the city maintained funding to Forest Park. He also notes how Forest Park Forever has been working since at least 2001 to create a maintenance endowment for Forest Park so it is not like a new source of funding has suddenly been found. Click here to read the four page letter to the special committee.

And finally McGuire is offering amendments to the city budget to correct the diversion of funds away from Forest Park. Click here to read his presentation to the Ways & Means committee.

I have a few questions on this whole “deal.”

BJC apparently approached the city last year to make this happen. Had BJC not approached the city how would the mayor’s office be dealing with maintaining Forest Park?

Even though this deal has been in talks for a while do our leaders have a backup plan just in case?

Until 2001/2002 all of Forest Park had been in one ward but for some reason this section was taken away from the 28th Ward and placed in the 17th Ward during this last round of redistricting. Coincidence or careful long-range planning?

What is the rush? BJC says they don’t have any immediate plans for the site (I’m not convinced) and we’ve not figured out where to relocate all the facilities. Is it too much to ask for our leaders to have their ducks in a row before coming to us with these plans?

In the meantime, it is a hot holiday weekend so get out enjoy some of the city’s great parks.

– Steve


Currently there are "3 comments" on this Article:

  1. Jim Zavist says:

    While “dedicated funding” may appear to be a panacea, the reality reamins that’s there’s a finite limit to the tax levels citizens will tolerate. Short term, whatever (park, transit, schools, etc.) has to compete less-vigorously for their “fair” share of the overall budget. Over time, however, their portion of the budget shrinks as other “non-dedicated” needs are met. Biiger picture, we’re not seeing a bigger budget, just a rearrangement of the “deck chairs”!

    Gas taxes are a good example. We pay a fixed per-gallon tax. The price of gas has doubled, the cost of living has gone up, what 15-25%, and revenues available for transportation uses of all types have gone up only 5-10% (due to more vehicles being driven). Unless the parks deal is indexed to inflation, the city will see a short-term windfall, followed by declining revenues in “real” dollars. Ultimately, both Forest Park and the overall parks system will be back to where they are today, BJC will be occupying the 12 acres, and value judgements will be made with the clarity of 20/20 hindight . . .

  2. Margie Newman says:

    Wow. I just read the McGuire letter, and I am blown away by its articulate and impassioned explanation of this issue.

    On a larger scale, this letter is a great reminder that the small amount and superficial nature of the press received by important public issues such as this one don’t begin to tell the real story of how these situations came about or what forces are shaping them.

    I wish that all important issues in St. Louis received the benefit of such informed perspectives. My compliments to Dan McGuire for taking the time to educate decisionmakers. Whether they will listen is of course another matter.

    (And the swamp of arrogance from whence such schemes emerge is another topic entirely.)

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