Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Plan Called Threat to Heritage Page Extension Would Disrupt `Log Cabin' Life

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Plan Called Threat to Heritage Page Extension Would Disrupt `Log Cabin' Life

Article excerpt

Bill and Nancy Knowles had hoped that their 100 acres on a bluff overlooking the Missouri River would be a peaceful retreat for them for the rest of their lives, as well as for their children and children's children.

But if the Page Avenue extension is built as planned, the pastoral setting will be overshadowed by a highway of up to 10 lanes on which thousands of cars a day will rumble within 600 feet of their log cabin.

"By that time, maybe we'll be dead," Nancy Knowles said, only half in jest. Both she and her husband are in their 70s.

The Knowleses make their main residence in Kirkwood. He is a retired organic chemist who worked for Monsanto. She is a homemaker who in years past volunteered in public schools and the Head Start program.

The setting for their property in St. Charles County is almost magical. Oak, redbud, dogwood and hickory trees crisscross the land. Birds fill the air with sweet songs. People come from miles each spring to gaze in wonder at the myriad of wildflowers.

So impressed was Peter Raven, director of the Missouri Botanical Garden in St. Louis, that he implored state highway planners in 1986 to spare the wildflower garden. He wrote:

"In the garden, which occupies one of the most beautiful situations in the area, there is . . . one of the loveliest and most significant collections of Missouri wildflowers to be set in any collection. The importance of this collection and the natural beauty of the area is so great that it definitely ought to be preserved . . . in view of its educational and botanical value."

The Knowles family fought the Page Avenue extension for 20 years. In response, the state highway department moved the project north a few hundred feet to avoid a farmhouse on the Knowleses' land and rerouted a bike path away from their cabin. The path will connect with the Katy Trail, which also will be overshadowed by Page. The bridge will run above it just north of the so-called First Bench, the first park bench on the trail south of St. Charles.

Work on this segment of the Page extension is supposed to start in 1997 and be completed by 2003. In this stretch, from the river to Highway 94, just one house will have to be removed, the highway department says.

While the new highway won't overrun all of the family's property, it will be close enough to the wildflower gardens, a cabin and farmhouse to damage the setting. Surveyors' stakes are visible from their cabin's patio.

The property, known as Spring Bend, is not only beautiful but historical, says Nancy Knowles. She has copies of deeds to Spring Bend dating from 1797, when Jacques D'Eglise received a land grant from the Spanish government. According to an article written in 1968 by a local historian, Edna McElhiney Olson, D'Eglise built a boat landing near the spring and two cabins on the bluff. …

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