Francis Park was named after David Rowland Francis, the President of the Louisiana Purchase Exposition in 1889, former mayor of St. Louis (1885-1889) and Missouri Governor (1889-1893). In 1916, he donated 60 acres to the city for Francis Park.
As can be seen by the satellite image above, there are sports fields consolidated on the south side of the park and a central walkway and lily pond which you'll see photos of herein and the park is bordered by wide sidewalks which are popular with joggers, dog walkers, stroller pushers and the like.
Francis Park is one of 2 parks serving the beautiful St. Louis Hills neighborhood, along with Willmore Park. The neighborhood that flanks the park includes tree lined streets, a school, churches on every corner and lots and lots of well maintained and cared for homes. You can tell there is a lot of neighborhood pride in this part of the city.
Upon my visit this park was bustling with activity. Tennis players, handball players, playgrounds filled with kids and parents, volunteers doing fall plantings and tons of joggers/walkers on the perimeter of the park.
This park is in excellent condition and had a great feel. It was clean and being used with respect. You can tell Francis Park is important to the neighboring communities and they have embraced it.
In fact, a couple folks I was talking to indicated that Francis Park is "owned" by the neighborhood association and they contract the mowing of the grass with the city. The plantings and maintenance are taken care of from funds raised by an Art Fair, a 5K run and the Tour De Francis Park bike race which is part of the St. Louis Gateway Cup series of races along with Benton Park, Lafayette Square and the Hill neighborhoods.
The St. Louis Hills Art in the Park is a very well attended and well organized annual event.
I couldn't corroborate who owns the park as the SLHNH did not return my emails, I must assume the city does since it is on their website; but there is a strategic plan in place from the not for profit organization "Friends of Francis Park":
Francis Park Strategic Plan
Friends of Francis Park is a new 501(c)3 charity, organized by St. Louis Hills residents, whose purpose is to raise funds for major park improvements that the city cannot afford. These funds will be raised through contributions, fundraising events, and grants.
Anyone who is interested in helping to enhance our beautiful neighborhood park or who wants to keep up on park improvements is encouraged to join. Click here for more information.
Our mission is to preserve, improve, support, and promote Francis Park, which is a public park in the city of St. Louis, Missouri.
Some of the more immediate expenditures the group has planned include:
- improvements to drainage in the park
- a new soccer field
- a central pavilion and plaza south of the lily pond
- a nature area surrounding the existing swale
Strong neighborhoods have strong parks and strong groups of volunteers working their butts off to make the park a reflection of the pride seen in the surrounding areas of the park.
I friend of mine told me the test to see if a park is safe is if you see women running/walking by themselves...Francis Park had women exercising all over...so if you agree with that assessment, then this is a safe and nice park.
I'll start with the evidence throughout the park that the community has embraced this park in many ways.
From "adopted" park benches:
To the local boy scout troop involvement:
To gardening clubs and volunteers working hard:
Sports include, soccer field, roller hockey, ball fields, handball, racquetball and tennis courts.
The lily pond that starts near the Nottingham entrance and runs south toward the center of the park is complete with art work and decorative benches:
It was great to see marked crosswalks leading people into the park:
Folks leave water bowls our for the many dog enjoying their walk around the park:
There are several landscaped and other natural areas of interest within the park:
The playground was populated with responsible parents and kids behaving...it was so peaceful.
There was virtually no trash to be found in the park.
Francis Park is a perfect example of what a city park can be if the neighbors take ownership and work their tails off to make the park a first rate place for all.
Kudos to the Friends of Francis Park and the St. Louis Hills Neighborhood Association.
You all have a beautiful park and neighborhood.