Forest Park Forever Breathes New Life Into Our Favorite Park

By Krystin Arneson
In Culture

St. Louis’ chess hotspot is inarguably the Central West End (see: World Chess Hall of Fame, Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis, even Kingside Diner), but the game is advancing its territory west to Forest Park, where Forest Park Forever and the CCSC have partnered to install several concrete chess tables in a table near Steinberg Ice Skating Rink. Also now near Steinberg: newly opened bathrooms for year-round runners and a dog station with a bowl filler and dog bowl.

The new chess sets in Forest Park | photo by Katy Peace, courtesy Forest Park Forever

The new chess sets in Forest Park | photo by Katy Peace, courtesy Forest Park Forever

The new plaza and amenities were funded by private gifts—part of a Forest Park Forever’s drive to raise private funds. The organization recently announced a $130 million capital campaign, “Forever: The Campaign for Forest Park’s Future,” that will allocate $30 million toward restoration projects that are in the Forest Park Master Plan and expand Forest Park Forever’s endowment by $100 million for long-term care. They’re currently at almost $117 million of that goal.

“Forest Park is everyone’s park,” said Mayor Francis G. Slay in Forest Park Forever’s press release. “It is a treasured community asset enjoyed by citizens and visitors of every background and interest, every day of the year. It is impressive and inspiring to see the trajectory of the Forever campaign, which will further strengthen Forest Park Forever’s strong partnership with the City of St. Louis for a new era.”

According to Forest Park Forever, projects the funds will address are divvied up into four key areas: reviving landscapes and waterways (including completing waterway systems, a new meadow and revitalizing of natural areas); improving recreation (including extended and improved trails, modernizing restrooms and getting more open year-round, building a new play area); renovated community spaces (rebuilding Central Fields and the Upper Muny Lot—now the Festival & Parking Plaza); and improving the park’s safety and access (putting in safer sidewalks in key areas, revamping heavy-traffic roadways)., the GPS-enabled park-map website that launched this year, is a result of the last point.

“The Forever campaign is an essential initiative for a thriving St. Louis,” said Thomas R. Collins, chairman of the Forest Park Forever Board of Directors, in a statement. “As Forest Park has become more beloved and beneficial to the community with each passing year, there are now increased demands on the Park’s resources. Funds raised will enable Forest Park to continue improving in essential ways — better roads, revitalized event spaces, a new playscape — while ensuring that this great civic asset never slips back into the disrepair of last century.”

Longtime residents of STL will remember a previous Forest Park Forever and City of St. Louis campaign to raise $100 million back in 1995, when the park was in a state of decline. Between then and 2003, money was poured into restoration projects that brought back some of the park’s most iconic areas, including the Grand Basin, Jewel Box, World’s Fair Pavilion and the Boathouse. What followed over the next eight years was an expansion of both Forest Park Forever’s role in caring for the park alongside the City of St. Louis and a focus on preserving the space long-term through dedicated maintenance.

For more info on the campaign, check out Park enthusiasts can also tag their social media #whyforever.

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