Wednesday, July 23, 2014

North Riverfront Park

North Riverfront Park is 1 of 111 St. Louis parks.  This massive 250 acre park was placed into ordinance in 1980.  This is the northernmost park in St. Louis on the eastern edge of the Riverview Neighborhood.

This park is great for two reasons.  First, of all the parks, this one has the best relationship with and access to the Mississippi River.  This is the spot most popular with fishermen.  Guys drive and walk right up to the banks and fish for mainly buffalo.  This local delicacy, usually fried as described to me by the guy I talked to.  You cast with heavy test line and poles that look like they are intended for the ocean.  These fish get big.

We chatted about river fish being part of the area and how Kram Fish (around since 1904) in the Columbus Square neighborhood has just about everything you could ever want to eat that comes out of local rivers.

The other thing great about this park is the fact that the 10.8 mile North Riverfront Trail that connects the old Laclede Power Building at Lenore K. Sullivan and Biddle just north of the Arch to the old Route 66 Chain of Rocks Bridge, goes right through the park.

 Trailhead just north of the Arch

Old Chain of Rocks Bridge:  northern terminus of the Riverfront Trail

Great Rivers Greenway, the awesome regional institution connecting the metropolitan areas with hundreds of miles of trails has worked to rehabilitate this trail from 2005-2007 and there is now good signage and public art to keep this gritty, real, industrial trail interesting.

 Mary Meachum Freedom Crossing

There is a dedicated rest stop at North Riverfront Park.

The park is just east of Bob Cassilly's Cementland.

The park is largely the bike trail, the river and a lot of mowed grass/weeds that takes an army of workers to mow/weedwack.  I was there on a day when the city was working and it just seems so obvious that this land should be an extension of the River, a natural landscape.  A controlled burn and native grass re-installment would remove the need for mowing, allowing the Park's Dept to focus efforts on the neighborhood parks.  It would also provide a habitat for the plants and animals that are native to the area and it would provide a beautiful "break" between Riverview Boulevard (Speedway) and the Mississippi River.  It would hold up and anchor the soil during the rare flooding as well.

one of many tractors required to...mow

I totally understand there are spots that should be reserved for picnics/concerts/gatherings, etc.  But, the vast majority of the acres should go no-mow.  It just seems so obvious.

I would love to see Great Rivers collaborate with the City to do a native prairie restoration on the vast fields of grass/weeds.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Tandy Park

Tandy Park is 1 of 111 St. Louis parks.  This 5.6 acre park was placed into ordinance in 1918 and is located at the corner of Kennerly and Billups Avenues in the shadow of Sumner High School and the former Homer G. Phillips Hospital in the Ville neighborhood:

The park was named in the honor of Captain Charlton H. Tandy.  Per the State Historical Society of Missouri, Tandy was born a free black man in Kentucky and went on to great things, serving in the Missouri Militia during the Civil War and a respected member of the Republican Party and civil rights activist.  Sounds like a great man:
Charlton H. Tandy was born to free black parents on December 16, 1836, in Lexington,Kentucky. Tandy Moved to St. Louis in 1857 and worked as a porter, coachman and waiter until the Civil War. He enlisted in Company B of the 13th regiment of the Missouri State Militia and at the end of the war, was honorably discharged as a captain In 1870 he was appointed a messenger in the U.S. Customs House, the first of eleven commissioned positions in federal, state and municipal government. 
Tandy was a persistent fighter for black civil rights and active in Republican politics. He helped establish Lincoln Institute (Lincoln University) in 1870, the first school of higher education for blacks in Missouri. He successfully worked to get black educators into the St.Louis public school system. In 1870 he organized a boycott against the segregated St. Louis streetcar lines and , after time in jail and litigation, integrated the streetcars. During the"Colored Exodus" from the South in 1879, he assisted 2, 000 refugees who were stranded inSt. Louis. Appearing before a U.S. Congressional committee he urged Congress to provide aid for these refugees and to investigate and stop the violation of Negro rights in the South.He was known as a great orator and spoke on behalf of many white politicians. A loyal Republican he did not hesitate to criticize the party for neglecting the needs of Negroes. Tandy organized Negro political clubs to encourage Negroes to vote, run for office and become involved in political parties. He predicted the decline of Republicans in St. Louis politics if they continued to ignore Negroes. His predictions came true. He died in September, 1919.

The park is in the heart of arguably the most historic black neighborhood in St. Louis.  Once home to a thriving black middle class, the Ville was quite a source of pride.  It is rough today a result of a 31% loss in population from 2000 to 2010; but, this neighborhood is not without its gems.  This park is one of them, and the setting that surrounds it is beautiful.  This is the most stable part of the Ville.

The park is in the shadow of Turner School (now closed), Sumner High School, the Annie Malone Children's Home and Homer G. Phillips Hospital, all beautiful buildings and works of art if you ask me.  While the hospital closed in 1979, it is now senior living apartments.

Although the vast majority of the housing stock in the Ville is run down and not maintained well or abandoned.  The homes directly north of the park illustrate this point.

But back to the park...this really is a nice combination of Sumner sports fields including the Tuskegee Airman Football Field (surrounded by a nice track), Arthur Ashe Tennis Courts

The park itself also has basketball courts, a skating rink (kind of rare, but not anomalous), a playground.

The park is home to the Tandy Recreation Center which was built in 1937/1938 and is on the National Register of Historic Places, just like Homer G. Phillips across the street.  It is operational to this day hosting tennis, boxing, zoomba, etc. for the community.

From the application for inclusion on the National Registry:

I would love to see the African-American community rally around this part of the city and instigate an effort to get a strong middle class back here.  The investment in the park in the shape of new street trees and a beautiful retaining wall along Kennerly Avenue brings hope.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Hamilton Heights Park

Hamilton Heights Park is 1 of 111 St. Louis parks.  The city website does not have a location listed for the park, and it is not recognizable on google maps, etc.  There is no way to find this park unless you really dig.  The park doesn't even have the typical wood and white lettering park sign to identify it.  In fact, the only signage is at the playground which is dedicated to Margo Anderson.  You can read about her at the end of the post.

An anonymous person reached out to me to tell me that the park is located at the corner of Martin Luther King Drive and Clara Avenue in the Hamilton Heights neighborhood:

Unity Park is another park that is impossible to find online.  If anyone knows where it is, let me know.

This park is in an improving area just south of some really, really nice urban new construction just east on MLK Drive called Arlington Grove.  This is a great example of urban infill that is sensitive to its surroundings.

Let's hope Arlington Grove can serve as an impetus for the area and the park in general.  Today, the park is a bit rough around the edges and could use some landscaping, etc to make it more inviting.

Other newish homes have been constructed just east of the park.

The park is made up of a playground and a Cardinals Care Baseball Field, divided by an alley, which is open to traffic making it a bit awkward for a kids-oriented park.

The bright spot is the Cardinals Care Field just south of the playground, this one is in quite good condition and has an awesome scoreboard in right field.

In these current time, baseball isn't a sport that kids just get together and play like they did years ago a la the Sandlot.

I would love to see an organized youth league that recruits kids to play ball in a league that pits the various neighborhoods against each other.  The "home-field" would be the Cardinals Care fields throughout the city.  Each team would be regional based and sponsored.  Kids love baseball, they just need adults to bring the equipment and organize it.  Basketball is the "pickup game" of choice these days.  I'd like to see Cardinals Care and the city Park's Dept. organize and sponsor such a league.

This would help on many fronts:  give kids something to do, open up baseball to the newest generation, get some much needed maintenance of the Cards Care fields, help establish neighborhood identity and pride, get like minded kids together for bonding/friendship and encouragement to walk/ride bikes to the fields for pick up game.  Each team could identify with an MLB team logo to make it cool for the kids.  It would bring parents together from different parts of the city that don't interact in the CYC or other leagues.

I just love the game of baseball and these fields are really great, but they are never used.  Imagine Hamilton Heights going up against Fox Park.  I can get behind that and envision lawn chairs filled with parents, friends and grill outs, etc on game day.  Each neighborhood could try to out-do the other to make the best game day scenes.  I can dream, right?  In a city that is supposed to be "baseball heaven", kids are not playing pickup ball ANYWHERE in the city in numbers that are noticeable.  We could change that.

The playground is in good physical shape, but really needs some trash cans as there is quite a bit of litter strewn about by the adults who like to drink and eat junk food and trash the park that they are in.  See the pictures below if you think I'm exaggerating.

As you can see in the sign, the playground is dedicated to Margo Anderson.

Margo Anderson (1943-2010) sounded like an amazing person and tireless volunteer, mother and teacher.  Her work in the local community led to the playground being dedicated in her memory on June 30th, 2011.

Here's some info from the City of St. Louis Resolution #136 that made the dedication official.
WHEREAS, Margo Anderson was born February 11, 1943 in St. Louis to James Williams and Thelma Chandler; and

WHEREAS, Margo was preceded in her journey to heaven by her mother, Thelma Chandler,
brother, Ernest Chandler and son, George (Butch) Anderson; and

WHEREAS, she loved everyone around her and never met a stranger. She was a mother to many
and a friend to all; and

WHEREAS, Margo was a dedicated teacher and worked for Headstart for over 20 years. She was a parent volunteer with Mathew Dickey Boys Club and worked on various neighborhood
improvement projects; and

WHEREAS, Margo was a dedicated servant for many years as a Board Member of Union West Community Corporation, the local housing organization. She actively served as the block captain
in the 1400 block of Temple Avenue for many years and was one of the best neighbors throughout the City of St. Louis; and

WHEREAS, up until the day of her departure on May 17, 2010, it was always a dream for Mrs. Anderson to see a playground in the neighborhood that would provide a nice and safe place for
children to play. 
If the family or friends of Ms. Anderson come across this post, and you have a photo you'd be willing to share, I'd love to add that context to help memorialize her contributions to the community.