Friday, June 21, 2013

Amherst Park

Amherst Park is a 4.38 acre park established in 1970.  It is located southwest of the intersection of Hodiamont and Julian Avenues in the West End Neighborhood.  The park takes its name from Baron Jeffrey Amherst (1717-1747), a British army officer in the French and Indian war (source). 



Man, do I love North City.  The way these neighborhoods were laid out is simply amazing.  It seems like there was more wealth in its heyday, meaning more mansions than the South Side which I know much better.  Today my visit took place on a Sunday, a great day to witness the scores of middle aged and older black people dressed to the T's and looking sharp, socializing and showing up in droves to the many, many churches.  It's a scene I love.

Anyhow, Amherst Park is one of those parks that is brimming with potential.


It needs some TLC, and the neighbors/current park goers are not treating it well.  But, man it's hard not to love the layout of this park and its potential as a destination place as it is very close to the recently renovated Ruth Porter Park and the St. Vincent Greenway which skirts Amherst Park.  The Great Rivers Greenway did an EXCELLENT job as usual with its walking/cycling trails.  The trails were completed in October, 2012 and will eventually connect all the way into the burbs near the University of Missouri St. Louis campus.
The St. Vincent Greenway will tie together North County near the University of Missouri-St. Louis campus to Forest Park when it is complete. The newest section that just opened is a 1.3- mile long asphalt trail, which runs north from Delmar and DeBaliviere through Ruth Porter Park and then west to Skinker and Etzel.

When initially planning this section of the St. Vincent Greenway, the staff at the Great Rivers Greenway District was determined to improve the quality of life for residents along the trail, many of whom had avoided the park for fear of their safety. The District added safety measures to the trail for the protection of area residents – including ADA grading at each intersection along the path, brighter lighting and flattened paths with enhanced visibility for residents, trail users and law enforcement. (source)

There has been a tremendous amount of investment by Great Rivers Greenway in the streets, crossings, easements and cul-de-sac's just south and east of Amherst Park leading to Ruth Porter Park.  It's great to see this kind of investment in areas lines with old mansions and other St. Louis classic homes:







Now is the time for the community to step up and try to build on the investment and momentum generated by the St. Vincent Greenway to improve Amherst Park.  Will they do it?  Only time will tell.

While the city website touts a volleyball court, basketball court and multi-purpose field.  That isn't entirely accurate.  Yes, the basketball court is in excellent condition and has been maintained very well.



The only thing to improve the courts would be a minor fix to the fence:


There are also soccer goals, a rarity in St. Louis parks, great to see.  I wonder if they are used?


The playground and swing set are in really good shape as well.



Now the volleyball court on the other hand has seen better days and probably hasn't been in usable condition for years. 


The same can be said for the water fountain/spray pool that is clogged and inoperable, making the stairs to the volleyball court impassable due to mud and water settling at the bottom of the stairs.




There are several things that are intriguing in Amherst Park.  First, what was once in the round space in the following photo?  There are benches facing this former sandbox...fountain...tether ball?


Secondly are the several concrete walls and benches.  What once sat on the concrete pads...picnic benches...grills?



If anyone knows the history of either of these, please leave a comment here.

The thing I really like about this park is the tiering and design..it's not just a flat field.  It starts with a long sidewalk/walking path in the lowest lying area to the west.


Then it is built up with an eventual sitting area for adults right by the playground.

This is a great space, lined with healthy shade trees and you can image how vibrant it probably was before the spray fountain maintenance was deferred and eventually abandoned by the city park's dept.


I can imaging a hedgerow of Viburnum, Witch Hazel or Oak Leaf Hydrangea in the area leading from the concrete pads to the lowest lying area.  It's even demarcated with a concrete edging almost asking for it.



Again, this park has the bones of a great one.  It needs simple things like trash cans.  There was only one in the entire park right along the sidewalk on the far north side.  They need more trees, bushes, perennials, fixed spray fountains.  They need to define the space with some landscaping, otherwise it looks pretty drab and uninviting.

The city will not voluntarily do this stuff.  If the neighbors want these upgrades, they will have to demand them from the alderman and the park's dept and anyone else who will listen.  They will have to write grants, ask for help and but in a lot of work.

Amherst Park could be transformed into a diamond in the parks system, it wouldn't take much but a set of dedicated people in the neighborhood to make it happen.

2 comments:

Andrew said...

Thank you for this post! There are many residents that are wanting to invest and upgrade the park. We hope to have a community-wide event May 10, 2014 at Amherst Park bringing together the community--especially the new immigrant/refugee neighbors with those who have been here for years.

Question--do you know who/what Amherst Park was named after?

Mark Groth said...

Hi Andrew, I guess I could have included the name history, eh? Here's my best guess: AMHERST PLACE and TERRACE (N-S). In the private 1906 subdivision of Amherst Place, it commemorates Baron Jeffrey Amherst (1717-1747), a British army officer in the French and Indian war. (Cabanne)

source: http://www.slpl.lib.mo.us/libsrc/a-street.htm