Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Bosley Gets Data on Park Panel Drafted Report after Heavy Debate

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Bosley Gets Data on Park Panel Drafted Report after Heavy Debate

Article excerpt

A report that reflects 270 hours of sometimes passionate debate on the future of Forest Park lands on the mayor's desk today.

It calls for keeping the park's character - its winding roads, meadows, athletic fields and cultural institutions - but fixing its tattered features. At the same time, it endorses scores of proposals for change.

The 35-page plan was drafted by a committee of citizens and city officials appointed by Mayor Freeman Bosley Jr. The panel held nearly 60 meetings and public hearings.

After Bosley and his staff review it, the committee has asked that the mayor forward it to the Board of Aldermen for approval.

The proposals range from better maintenance of the trees and landscaping to suggestions for keeping bicyclists, golfers, pedestrians and automobiles out of one another's way.

Several proposals, likely to generate even more debate, call for more taxpayer support for the park and for forcing the Metropolitan St. Louis Sewer District to take over the park's crumbling sewers. That's a responsibility MSD doesn't accept now.

City park officials estimate the sewer work at about $20 million. Overall, they estimate that the park probably needs about $50 million worth of work just to fix up what's there now.

City parks director Gary Bess is co-chairman of the park planning committee.

Bess sees today's report as a kind of halfway mark. In the coming months, he said, the committee will hold even more public meetings.

The next step: Using the goals and policies in the report as a framework for writing a park master plan, with specific projects and designs for how the park should look in the future. The committee plans to finish that step in April.

But even at this point, Bess says, the committee has taken "giant steps forward."

"What we have now, for the first time in the park's history, is a clearly defined policy on how expansions can take place in the park," he said.

"We have a policy that says green space is important and will be protected. And we have a policy that says the public will be involved, on an on-going basis, in what the park will look like in the future."

Two weeks ago, about 100 residents and others interested in the park reviewed a draft of the report. They accepted most of it, but some still clashed over several proposals dealing with preserving the park's open space.

One proposal to consider allowing the Science Center to expand its parking didn't show up in the final report. Bess said the committee dropped it because of the public opposition.

Another hot topic then was whether to allow institutions to expand, and under what conditions.

In the final report, expansions, modifications or even removal of buildings, roads, parking lots, paths, recreation or natural areas would have to undergo lengthy review and should meet certain conditions.

Among the conditions:

No new buildings unless they are related to existing institutions or other facilities.

No expansion for administrative space.

Expansion allowed if the space it takes is replaced with new open space.

Expansion allowed if the institution or facility agrees to maintain the building and surrounding area.

No expansion if increased activity would overburden existing roads, parking or harm the park's "natural systems." Highlights Of Proposals For Forest Park GENERAL: Preserve the park's character, natural beatuy, historic structures and cultural resources, but keep it well-maintained and safe. Make Forest Park a separate unit with its own managers and budget, within the city's Department of Parks, Recreation and Forestry. Establish a Forest Park board, appointed by the mayor, with city officials and citizens. Explore establishing a metropolitan tax district including Forest Park. Take legal action if necessary to force the Metropolitan Sewer District to repair and maintain all sewers and take over storm-water management. …

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