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Parks and recreation in St. Louis

January 22, 2010 Parks, Planning & Design 13 Comments
Image from the archives of Lou & Georgia Buckowitz

Neighborhood parks were very important to St. Louis’ long-time planner (1916-1950), Harland Bartholomew.  From the Parks & Recreation section of the 1947 City Plan:

Large parks are very useful but they supply only one part of the city’s recreation requirements. There is a surprising deficiency in neighborhood parks, playfields, and playgrounds. It is always difficult to provide ample park and recreation areas after development has taken place but that is not justification for neglect of an extremely important public facility. If stability and improved environment in the various residential areas of St. Louis is to be assured, it is imperative that adequate local recreational areas be acquired.

Each of the 82 residential neighborhoods in the city should have a neighborhood park, and playground. Each should have a large playfield in reasonably close proximity. These requirements are in addition to such overall facilities as large parks and parkways. (continue reading)

While I have disagreed with Bartholomew’s thinking numerous times (multiple airports to fly around the region!?!) I wonder how the idea of places for kids to play applies in 2010?  Playground design is different.  The playgrounds of 1947 and earlier would be deemed too unsafe by today’s standards. Few parents today would even let their children out of sight anyway.

Mt. Pleasant Park looking North. Image from the archives of Lou & Georgia Buckowitz

From what I’ve seen kids seem to enjoy new playground equipment. The water features at Citygarden were a big hit last year.  Thoughts anyone?  What works? What doesn’t?

Thanks to Matt Rankin for the donation of archives from his late grandparents, Lou & Georgia Buckowitz.

– Steve Patterson


Currently there are "13 comments" on this Article:

  1. aerosmith says:

    As long as the City is anticipating a budget deficit, none of it will work. No money = no luxuries. But I'm sure that the aldermen will have no trouble wasting more taxpayer money.

  2. Double J says:

    The playground at Lindenwood Park is always full of kids during nice weather. One of my favorite activities is taking a long walk to Francis Park when the weather is decent. Both have strong volunteer associations-especially Francis.

  3. Jennifer says:

    Interesting this came up; this morning I was just reading a “Station Area Planning Manual” suggested by this blog post saying we should plan parks around public transit stations. It's a good thought to keep in mind for Forest Park/DeBaliviere…yes, there is a park right there, but the development should feel connected to and as an extension of Forest Park, perhaps.

    • I've been with friends with their kids/grand kids. They are often bored after 10 minutes at a playground. Does Forest Park even have a playground? If it does it would take quite a trek to get there from MetroLink.

      • LisaS says:

        Forest Park does have a playground–actually, 2 playgrounds until BJC builds their new building. The biggest, nicest one is an accessible (as in, wheelchair accessible) playground built by the Visitor's Center by the Variety Club, not far from the DeBaliviere/Forest Park Metrolink stop. Many parents dislike the design of this playground because of the water feature (OMG, Jr. might get WET!!), the large curving concrete wall that supports the ramp and the trees along the western edge obscured their ability to watch their children continuously, but I don't have a problem allowing mine to be out of sight for 10-15 seconds and haven't since they were 3 or 4.

        There is also Turtle Park and a small play area outside the Science Center.

        I've found that as the years go by, my children are less and less amused by playgrounds, particularly if there aren't other kids there. Now, the playground serves more as a hub for meeting friends and extending play into the adjacent areas of the park. Oh, and giving me a shady place to sit, read my book, and drink coffee.

    • linsey says:

      Yeah, we have taken the train to that park and it feels really disconnected.

      I like playgrounds that are small and have some relationship to the street and neighborhood. Like buildings, playgrounds with huge set-backs can feel unsafe and too-big. The TGP park is not oriented to the neighborhood, but is in a high traffic area and is small. The trend seems to be to build them bigger, which I'm not sure is better. My favorite playground for small kids is DeMunn in Clayton. It feels thoroughly integrated into the neighborhood and on the grid. There is a park in Maple wood off Sublet that has a similar feel. I like Gravois park for similar reasons.

      Parks that are oriented away from the street seem to have problems – McDonald park on Utah, the smaller playground in TGP.

      I guess I feel like city parks should be like a city – small and dense – and not on some winding path in the middle of a field.

  4. Colleen says:

    One of my favorite parks to play in as kid was Little Mitchell park in Kirkwood. (http://www.kirkwoodmo.org/parks/parkssystem.htm…) It is a .3 acre park stuck in the middle of a residential neighborhood with a small playground and enough mulched grounds to run off some steam. We'd walk (by ourselves, of course) but it's so close to many homes that there was rarely a time another family w/ one or more parents were there too. I think smaller is better – easier to maintain, not a lot of room to encourage unseemly activity, and more likely to become a true part of the neighborhood. No need for a huge fundraising activity and time consuming meetings to manage a single-lot park.

  5. A. Nicholas concerned citizen says:

    I would like to know who are the people or organization that is opting to remove the Statue of Dr. Martin Luther King that is currently sited in our Historical Fountain Park. They want to move it from us to put it in Forest Park.
    How rediculus, let Forest Park commission their own Statue to be scluptured and put it in Forest Park. I'm sure they have quite enough money to buy one. Come on now that statue is a part of our heritage…..and that's all we have to hold on to here in St. Louis.

  6. Cheryl says:

    My small grandson loves the playground next to the visitor center. I think it is a matter of age. One playground can't be all things to all ages of children. It has to be pretty much a destination to go there, because it is not exactly close by anyone's house. There is a bus that will drop you off near by, that you can catch from Metrolink Forest Park station. Of course, finding a child arriving by transit would be a rarity.

  7. aaronlevi says:

    I think marinevilla might be the only neighborhood in st louis without a park. Minnie Woods, Cherokee Park, and Benton Park are all close by, but there's nothing actually within our boundaries. There's a great piece of land by the old firehouse near lemp/broadway that could be made into a great park (with the firehouse serving as community meeting space). unfortunately gambringus hall owns that land and is deadset on using it as nothing more than parking space for their larger receptions/events.


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