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Reaching The O’fallon Park Recreation Center

Previous posts on the O’Fallon Park Recreation Center covered the political standoff (Poll: Thoughts On The Not Yet Open O’Fallon Park Recreation Complex) and agreement (Readers Split On O’Fallon Park Controversy, Agreement Reached), today I want to talk about how to reach the Rec Center once it opens.

Many residents using the new facility, as well as YMCA/Herbert Hoover staff, will drive there. But others will walk or bike there and still others will come from further away riding the #74 (Florissant) MetroBus. I’ll cover all modes but lets start with transit and pedestrians.

ABOVE The southbound #74 MetroBus stops at W. Florissant Ave & Pope Ave, across the street from pedestrian access route.
ABOVE: Big beautiful homes on Holly Ave at W. Florissant Ave, two blocks north of Pope Ave


ABOVE: Several well-marked crosswalks allow pedestrians to cross W. Florissant Ave to enter O’Fallon Park. Pope Ave has a traffic signal to stop traffic.
ABOVE: A wide sidewalk works its way up the hill from Florissant & Pope.
ABOVE: Looking back downhill toward Florissant Ave. & Pope Ave.
ABOVE: This sidewalk crosses the main internal park road leading to the recreation center.
ABOVE: The sidewalk continues to the front door of the new facility.

As the pictures above show, the pedestrian access from the nearby neighborhood, Florissant Ave. and MetroBus is excellent. A straighter path would be a shorter but not possible due to the grade change. Besides, if you’re going to work out saving a few steps probably isn’t a priority. Pedestrians just have to cross one internal park roadway, they don’t have to walk in it. Unless they are coming from or going to the O’Fallon Park Boathouse or if you live to the southeast of the park, across Harris & Adelaide Avenues, then access is tricky through the park or requires walking in the park roadway or going out to Florissant Ave and then back in.

ABOVE: A direct path from the Boathouse to the new Rec Center is needed. Pedestrian access circled in blue. Aerial from Google Maps, click to view.
ABOVE: Connecting the new rec center and the historic boat house is complicated by the terrain. but this should’ve been considered when building a $20+ million facility.

On to bicycling and driving. Cyclists can use the roadway so from that perspective their fine but I have serious issues with the bike rack selection and installation.

ABOVE: Empty bike racks in front of the unopened O’Fallon Park Recreation Complex

Architects love this bike rack design, even though it is a poor choice for securing a bike and most of the time they are installed incorrectly, as was the case here. When used as designed they can only secure the frame at one point, they should be loaded from both sides. The four racks shown here are designed to hold a total of 28 bikes. Another area with more of the same rack is to the left.

Better bikes racks would’ve been less expensive. Total failure on the part of the architects and/or client (city parks dept).

ABOVE: Sidewalks along the outside edges of the parking lot provide a safe path to walk to the building.
ABOVE: Bioswales collect rain water runoff from the asphalt parking lot.

With the exception of the choice of bike rack and lack of connection to the O’Fallon Park boat house and adjacent tennis courts I’d say access is very good. It’s far better than trying to reach the sister facility in Carondelet Park from nearby neighborhoods.

— Steve Patterson


Poll: Thoughts On The Not Yet Open O’Fallon Park Recreation Complex

The $21-$22 million dollar O’Fallon Recreation Complex has been finished for a couple of months now but the facility remains closed.  This facility is the north side equal to the facility that opened in Carondelet Park on November 19, 2009:

The City of St. Louis wanted a new community recreation center on the City’s North Side to serve as a youth and elderly outreach facility, encouraging all ages to be engaged in the community. St. Louis City officials determined that there was significant interest in the North St. Louis area to support this new facility. The project is being funded by a one-eighth-cent sales tax approved by city voters in 2008.

The O’Fallon Park Recreation Complex is designed to achieve a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED®) Silver certification for environmental design and sustainability. “This new project shows the City’s commitment to improving the quality of life in North St. Louis,” says St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay. “This building will be an amenity for nearby neighborhoods and will provide a fun, safe place for children, adults and seniors to go after school and on weekends. It will help make the community healthier, and will help make our northside neighborhoods better places to live and work. The positive impact of this investment will be enjoyed by the community for years to come.” (St. Louis)

But the operating agreement between the city and the YMCA have yet to be approved.

Alderman Antonio French says Mayor Francis Slay has cut a bad deal for his residents. French says the contractor hired to run the facility — the YMCA — wants to charge his residents and the city government too much money, yet can’t assure him needy children will get in for next-to-free. (stltoday.com

And the other side:

Jeff Rainford, Slay’s chief of staff, calls the rec center project the mayor’s “baby” and says he’s not sure why French, who was previously happy with the YMCA’s fee schedule and management proposal, is suddenly holding up the bill. The YMCA says they’ll be able to open the center 90 days after the bill is approved.

“Halfway through, he pulled the bill and started criticizing the mayor,” says Rainford. “We want people to be able to use it. It’d be a crying shame to build this palace on the hill and no one can use it.”

Rainsford [sic] says there will be 1,300 guaranteed scholarships given to kids and their families, 650 will be distributed by the Boys & Girls Club of Greater St. Louis, which is supposed to partner with the Y to provide children’s activities. In order to obtain the lower $25 membership, parents will have to show cause for need and bring in a pay stub or W-2 form. (Riverfront Times)

One issue French told me is YMCA formula for calculating a lower fee, the YMCA says their formula is proprietary information. French says that’s fine for other facilities but not one built with tax money and receiving $1.2 million per year operating subsidy.

ABOVE: Empty bike racks in front of the unopened O’Fallon Park Recreation Complex

Right now both sides have dug in their heels:

The YMCA is lined up to operate the rec center. But city aldermen are raising concerns over a $1.2 million subsidy it would need. That’s $500,000 more per year than an estimate done eight years ago.

It’s not clear exactly where the money will come from.

Slay’s office says under a current plan, 1,300 young people would get a $25 dollar- a-year membership for the center.

Alderman Antonio French says he wants commitments in writing. (KMOV)

No shortage of options:

There’s been a lot of back-and-forthing about who would pay what to use the facility and what discounts might be offered to low-income families. Mr. French told us he’d be satisfied if low-income families paid 60 percent of the planned family rate of $55 a month, or $33 a month. If 5,000 low-income families took advantage of a $22-a-month discount, $110,000 a year would be needed.

Here’s a plan: If all the civic groups and corporations who have bemoaned the lack of recreational opportunities in north St. Louis bucked up, 110 grand would be easy.

Mayor Francis Slay’s office thinks Mr. French is playing politics. He is a paid consultant to Aldermanic President Lewis Reed, who might challenge Mr. Slay for his job next year. Opening a new rec center on the north side before the March primary election might benefit the Slay campaign. (stltoday.com editorial)

So what do you think? Take the poll in the right sidebar (mobile users need to switch to full website). Poll results on Wednesday October 3rd along with my thoughts on the controversy and a look at pedestrian access to the facility.

— Steve Patterson


Poll: Thoughts On The City Closing The Sidewalks Around Larry Rice’s Homeless Shelter

The city’s efforts to address concerns raised by neighbors of Larry Rice’s New Life Evangelistic Center (NLEC), a homeless shelter, took a new twist recently.

Thursday morning [9/6], the city cleaned the streets and sidewalks and set up barricades on sidewalks, where large groups of homeless people have been camping. (KMOV: City moves up clean-up schedule downtown)

Below are a couple of pics I took that afternoon:

ABOVE: A person is walking on Locust St because the city has closed off the sidewalks around Larry Rice’s New Life Evangelistic Center (NLEC) to prevent the homeless from sleeping on the public sidewalks overnight.
ABOVE: The city cites “health and safety reasons” for closing the sidewalks.

I posted the second pic to the UrbanReviewSTL Facebook page (link) and many comments came in — some glad the city finally took action and others defending Larry Rice and asking where the homeless are supposed to sleep with Lucas Park closed for renovations and now the sidewalks outside Rice’s shelter closed.

Given the divergent views on Facebook I knew this would make a good poll topic. The poll is in the right sidebar, the provided  answers are presented in a random order.

— Steve Patterson


Citygarden On A Warm Summer’s Night

August 25, 2012 Downtown, Featured, Parks 1 Comment

Citygarden is a busy place during the day, but if you haven’t experienced it at night you’re really missing out.

ABOVE: The splash fountain becomes a colorful show at night
ABOVE: The waterfall is calming

I love strolling through Citygarden because no matter how I feel when I arrive I know I’ll leave with a smile on my face. On those days when it’s just been too hot to go out when the sun is up I get grumpy being indoors so a late night visit is still warm, but needed relief to being stuck in air conditioning.

— Steve Patterson


Ride The Forest Park Trolley Instead of Adding To Congestion

After the success of the Downtown Trolley came the bright Forest Park Trolley. Yes, I know, It’s just a standard bus that’s been wrapped in a cartoon-like trolley design.  To paraphrase Al Franken on SNL, gosh darn it, people like it.

ABOVE: People board the Forest Park Trolley to visit the park

Wrap a standard bus and suddenly people that otherwise wouldn’t ride a bus are boarding. It’s a good thing too because so many people going to the attractions in Forest Park want to drive their car and park. Metro reroutes the #90 (Hampton) bus on the weekends because of the traffic congestion inside the park. Let me repeat that, Metro has to reroute a bus line that normally goes through the park because it’s too congested inside the park.

Enjoy the beautiful weekend.

— Steve Patterson