The park was placed into ordinance in 1975 and is the result of housing clearance in the late 1950's. The park used to be pretty tired and abused looking. Recently, it has seen an amazing transformation by the Great Rivers Greenway organization. Funded through a tax increase voted on by the people of St. Louis and surrounding small towns in the suburbs of St. Louis County and St. Charles County to create the Great Rivers Greenway District, this pedestrian/bike trail is absolutely fantastic.
This extension of the St. Vincent Greenway has changed the way people use the public right-of-way along Etzel Avenue from Skinker Boulevard eastward to Porter Park. Walkers, runners and cyclists now have a wider path and the sidewalk in Porter Park has been replaced with a new trail that includes disabled access ramps.
Ruth Porter Park offers an inviting environment for people of all ages to walk, visit and play. Amenities include umbrellas, bright benches, banners, art, street lighting, and a splash fountain at the south end of the park that is open during the summer months. When the Loop Trolley is constructed, the greenway will continue along the eastern side of DeBaliviere Avenue south to Forest Park. (source)Ruth Porter Mall is part of the larger ~7 mile St. Vincent Greenway which will connect Forest Park in St. Louis at the southermost point all the way north past the University of Missouri St. Louis to Ramona Lake Park in the north county suburbs.
The park was named after...you guessed it: Ruth Porter (1915-1967).
Here's a bit of her life story from the St. Louis Planning and Urban Design Agency:
Ruth Porter was a founder and first executive secretary of the Greater St. Louis Committee for Freedom of Residence, a group organized in 1961 to break down housing restrictions and integrate housing in St. Louis. In 1958, she won an award from the National Conference for Christians and Jews for promoting racial understanding. She was named outstanding woman of the year in 1965 by the NAACP. Her tireless efforts to secure fair housing eventually led to the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision in the Jones vs. Mayer case, which was won by residents she helped to support. At one time Porter was also director of the Kinloch YMCA and a leader in the West End Community Conference.(source)I'll start at the southern section and work my way north. DeBaliviere Avenue ends at Delmar Boulevard. This will be an exciting area in the coming years as the planned Loop Trolley is going to terminate its eastern leg and head sound on DeBaliviere to the Missouri History Museum in Forest Park.
The Loop Trolley construction is slated to start in the summer of 2014 and be operational by 2016.
But back to the park...
There is a small gathering area, a spray pad, seating, bike racks and interpretive info on Ruth Porter.
As you continue north on the trail, you pass streets and alleys through a narrow strip of land. The grounds are well cared for, landscaped in many places with benches spaced out along the way.
There are more interpretive signs with great information about the architecture in the West End and the overall history of the area. There are sculptures and an outdoor stage/sculpture and even a community garden on the way by St. Vincent Greenway Inc.
There are also signs pointing you toward some of the other nearby parks. The park ends at Etzel Avenue where there is another gathering space, complete with umbrellas for shade.
It will be fun to watch this trail continue to connect north and see if the Loop Trolley gets people with strollers, bikes, razor scooters, etc using the trail from other more densely populated areas.