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Work Progressing in Lucas Park

September 16, 2009 Downtown, Homeless, Parks 3 Comments

Lucas Park, in downtown St. Louis, was used for years only by the homeless in the region.  Map to Lucas Park.  A year ago local residents began cleaning up and using the park.  The homeless are still there, just joined by loft dwellers.

In the last year an improvement plan was developed and funding obtained.  Work on the improvements has begun.

One of the main issues I have with the park is the sidewalk along 14th Street on the West edge of the park.  It is too narrow and too close to the street.  Parents didn’t like the proximity of the playground to the street.  A row of bald cypress trees were removed and a retaining wall installed — this will permit the installation of a more generous sidewalk to be placed away from the curb while also creating a barrier to keep kids out of the street.

bThe playground used to be surrounded by rotting railroad ties.  Now the retaining wall material defines the playground area.

Over on the North section of the park a new dog run is being built to replace the makeshift one on the East end of the park (former Children’s Center fenced playground).

– Steve Patterson


Lucas Park in 2009

March 18, 2009 Downtown, Parks Comments Off on Lucas Park in 2009

Last Fall many of us downtown began working on cleaning up Lucas Park. Through the winter the work continued in the form of planning improvements to be accomplished this year.

The city has already removed four unhealthy trees from the park.  Replacements are planned.  Sixth ward Alderman Kacie Starr Triplett has submitted a request for the upcoming budget for improvements.  But much work will still be done through sweat equity.

To facilitate getting the word out about meetings and work days I’ve created Lucas Park Announcements, a Google Groups announcement list. Anyone can join the list but only a few can send out notices so the number of emails will be minimal.  If you’d like to stay informed about upcoming work days, meetings or other events related to Lucas Park visit groups.google.com/group/lucasparkannounce.  There you can sign up to receive emails or subscribe to the group’s RSS feed.

As I’m still having some server issues when commenting the comments are closed on this post until the issues are fully resolved.


Lucas Park Design Charrette Tonight, 11/17/2008; 6pm

November 17, 2008 Downtown, Parks 8 Comments

At 6pm tonight (11/17/08) citizens will gather for a ‘design charrette‘ focusing on downtown’s Lucas Park.

Above: Volunteers on 9/13/08 work to beautify the park.
Above: Volunteers on 9/13/08 work to beautify the park.

In short, a charrette is an intensified design process. Teams will assemble and draw & write out what they want for Lucas Park.

The current park was created 100 years ago. It once featured elaborate plantings and had few trees. It was symmetrical in both directions. The two North-South walkways and entrances align with the rear doorways of the library to the South across Locust St. Each of these walkways has a circle at its center. A drinking fountain exists at the East circle.

I’m rather fond of the original design. I say original but that is not quite accurate. The city was deeded this block in 1857. The city bought the block where the library is now located. From 1859-1883 the two blocks contained a large park. Locust St did not go through from 13th to 14th. That would be the true original park.

That park was wiped out in 1883 for the St Louis Exhibition and Music Hall. That hall was razed in 1907 current main Library, which opened in 1912. Locust St was cut through at this time. At some point during the 5 years it took to raze the old structure and build the library, the current design for Lucas Park was realized.

So, I like the 1907-1912 design of the park. In fact, it is in very good condition. On my team tonight I will advocate more a restoration/renovation than a completely new design. But I’d like to see a team or two come up with a fresh approach. We need as many different concepts as possible.  We will have a drawing (view PDF) of the existing conditions as a starting point.

The park needs to be a reflection of today. That would include a pleasant outdoor place for people to sit and enjoy the park. That includes those that are homeless. However, while I don’t object to a homeless person enjoying the park I do object to bags of belongings surrounding trees. We need to find a way for the homeless to have a place to safely store their belongings as they search for employment, housing and treatment for any addictions or mental issues.

The Eastern end of the park was fenced off and used by a nearby daycare center for a playground. That center moved West near Jefferson last year. A prior charrette was done 5-6 years ago. At that time the children’s center was still using the playground so the thought was to mirror the design and fence the Western end for a dog park. The center, with the fountain, would have remained open to all.

But Larry Rice objected and the project stalled.

Today the neighborhood is very different than it was just six years ago. We have more residents, more dogs, and more children. The city says we have fewer homeless.

As with anything we need to strike a balance: residents, homeless, kids, dogs. Not one of these should be given so much priority in the park that it tips to being only for that one user group. The park can and must be shared by and for all.

So we’ll see what everyone comes up with tonight. We will be at Crepes in the City at 500 N. 14th (just North of the park). They are closed on Mondays so we are just using their space for the evening. The doors open at 5:30pm and we begin precisely at 6pm. I’ve got a short presentation of the history, recent conditions as well as images from other small urban parks to start the creative juices. We’ll give the teams instructions and set them to work from roughly 6:25 to 8:20pm. At 8:20pm each of the teams will present their park concept to the other teams. We will finished by 9pm.

Following the charrette we will begin incorporating the ideas from everyone into a master plan for the park, enabling us to seek public and/or private funding. The charrette is open to all who wish to participate.
Design professionals are encouraged to participate (and to bring markers & trace).


Coming Together In Lucas Park

October 11, 2008 Downtown, Parks 5 Comments

We skipped last weekend in Lucas Park but resumed work earlier today. This time we worked a reduced shift from 10am to noon-ish. In the past Andy Martello set up a BBQ to smoke meats & grill corn. We’d have a few of the local homeless because they knew that was the only way to get any of the food.

This weekend we skipped the food. We still had several homeless persons helping us in the park. I think we’ve earned their trust. That first day some were upset by our presence in their park. Over the last month they’ve seen we are not going to push them out. It has become our park.

Farrell Chatwell & Andy Martello continue their conversation from the other night at the tap room.  Turns out they are both Star Trek geeks... I mean fans.
Farrell Chatwell (left) & Andy Martello continue their conversation from the other night at the Tap Room. Turns out they are both Star Trek geeks....uh, fans
Maureen Brown (in yellow) shows off her vivid artwork to some resident volunteers.
Above: Maureen Brown (in yellow) shows off her vivid artwork to some resident volunteers.

Maureen had recorded a testimonial for Rice’s New Life Evangelistic Center. A few weeks ago she said she had not been paid for the work they gave her to do. Today she says she finally got paid but the additional work she was promised has not materialized. She does not feel safe on the street alone.

Over the last month barriers have been broken. Us loft dwellers that have been working in the park see the homeless in a new light. We’ve gotten to know many. They’ve gotten to know us. Fears of the other are diminished. We are all now acting different toward the other.

I didn’t get a picture of him but a man named Ernie also helped quite a bit today. Again no food was being cooked or offered. Ernie, Maureen & Farrell all helped because they wanted to help. Pride of place.

A month ago the park looked like this:

Lucas Park on the morning of 9/13/08
Lucas Park on the morning of 9/13/08

And a similar view this afternoon:

Lucas Park on 10/11/2008.  I donated a large quantity of Liriope (aka Lilyturf).
Lucas Park on 10/11/2008. I donated a large quantity of the hardy ground cover Liriope (aka Lilyturf).

Homeless still use the park, I don’t expect that to change. But more and more residents are using the park
as well. We are mingling and getting to know each other. The experience has been nothing but positive for me and for many others.

On the 25th we’ve got a little Halloween event planned from 3-5pm in the park. We’ll have fun & games for the little ones. I think we are planning a costume contest for kids, adults & dogs.

With the bulk of the cleanup done we move into the next phase with a design charrette on Monday November 17th from 6pm-9pm. We need Architects – especially Landscape Architects to participate. An Arborist or two would be nice as well. Residents & the homeless will be represented.

For years now Lucas Park has been the meant homeless to many in our region. Now Lucas Park is becoming a place where we can all come together, talk and figure out our common bonds rather than our differences. We’ll never erase homelessness but we do our best to work for solutions to get the homeless off the street and into transitional housing as quickly as possible.

I realize everyday how lucky I am to still be living following my February stroke and 14+ hours spent on my cold concrete floor until my friend Marcia found me. I’m determined to make a difference for others.