News and Media
Below are recent published pieces on Proposition 2. Check back often as new content will be regularly added.
The Tim McGraw Show
KSDK Channel 5
County park development priorities imperil future land donations
By: Mark Ohlendorf
Published in the St. Louis Post Dispatch at this link
The St. Louis County government has proposed uses for its park land in recent years that are not consistent with the wishes of the property’s original donors, including generous families, foundations and the federal government. These donated properties for future generations to enjoy are now being viewed by the county as free places to sell, lease or build other commercial uses not in the parks’ original plans, showing a blatant disregard for the donors’ desires and risking the likelihood that future donors will step forward.
The case of my family’s donations for two county parks over the years shows why a public vote should be required before major changes can be made to a county park.
Several decades ago, my parents gave the county the carousel that is now at Faust Park as well as the land and money for two parks in West and South County. They wanted to preserve green space during a period of rapid development to ensure the county remained a great place to live and raise a family. But several years ago, the county decided to take 10 acres out of the 44-acre Ohlendorf West Park in West County to build an emergency-communications center on the site of a baseball field near the park entrance without seeking input from neighborhood residents or my family.
This facility is a needed service, but the county did not have to build their 32,000-square-foot building, parking lot and 150-foot radio tower on free park land. This could have been built on properties owned by the county other than park land donated by my parents for preservation. I tried unsuccessfully to stop this project and protect my parents’ vision for this land.
Similar arguments were made last year in Creve Coeur Lake Memorial Park, whose land was given to the county by the National Park Service with specific use guidelines that did not include a $60 million ice sports complex. The complex is now being built on undeveloped commercial land in the vicinity of the park, but not in the park. The wasted money and loss of trees could have been prevented if the park’s intended uses were honored.
Proposition 2 on the Nov. 6 ballot will allow St. Louis County voters to have the final say over how our parks, like the two my family donated, are used in the future, including a vote on any “sale, lease, disposal, gift, structure or commercial use not customarily associated with a park’s use.” This is a reasonable next step in protecting our parks, because it does not ban all development, does not involve any kind of tax or fee increase and it lets the people who use the parks have a say in what happens in our parks. It has the backing of the St. Louis County Council and a broad consortium of community and environmental organizations devoted to improving the quality of life in our diverse community.
I started the St. Louis County Parks Foundation in response to the Ohlendorf Park West project and to connect people with their parks and help raise private money to care for, restore and enhance all St. Louis County parks. We welcome new ideas from the public to make our parks better, while at the same time we are working to protect our parks from unwanted uses. Proposition 2 is an integral part to ensuring the future of our parks and preserving the vision of those who helped start them.
Mark Ohlendorf is founder and executive director of the St. Louis County Parks Foundation, a public/private partnership started in 2015 to better connect people to their parks and bridge the gap between the public funds available and the additional money needed to care for, restore and enhance all St. Louis County Parks.
Environmental and preservation groups push for passage of Prop 2
“Proposition 2 would ensure that any part of a St. Louis County park cannot be sold, disposed of or used in major new ways without a vote of the people. Similar laws are already in place in St. Louis city and several local municipalities. Proposition 2 does not require any type of tax or fee increase.”
Read more from this article here.
By Gene McNary
The debate over a proposed ice sports complex in Creve Coeur Lake Memorial Park last year provided the latest example of the public’s desire to be heard when major projects that alter the intended use of St. Louis County park lands are being considered.
Over the past several decades, county residents have had the opportunity to speak out in the form of a vote over bond issues for proposed ice rinks, golf courses and outdoor sports fields before being built in county parks. But with the growing influence of developers and government officials in recent years proposing big changes in county parks with their “free” land, such votes have given way to political game-playing that takes the future of the county’s parks out of the hands of its residents.
Proposition 2 on the Nov. 6 ballot in St. Louis County would give the public the opportunity to vote on any “sale, lease, disposal, gift, structure or commercial use not customarily associated with a park’s use.” It does not ban all development, nor does it require any type of tax or fee increase. On the contrary, people are encouraged to continue bringing their creative ideas about our parks forward for public consideration as they have since the county parks system was established in the 1960s.
Back then, generous and civic-minded families began donating their beautiful properties to the county for preservation and public enjoyment. The county then purchased additional park land and grew the system into the 71 parks we all enjoy today.
Today we are seeing county parks being used for cellphone tower sites, storage areas for other county departments and some commercial uses not intended by the original donors. And as we saw at Creve Coeur Lake Memorial Park last year, the public often finds out when the bulldozers show up.
Five of the leading environmental organizations in our region have recently joined forces behind the Yes For Our Parks! campaign: the Audubon Society of St. Louis, the Missouri Coalition For The Environment, Open Space Council, Sierra Club of Eastern Missouri and the St. Louis County Parks Foundation. These are some of the same organizations that successfully got the state and federal government to stop construction of the ice sports complex in Creve Coeur Lake Memorial Park last year.
They know that the real future of the county park system is outlined in the county’s recently completed Vision 2030 community survey and master plan, in which the public identifies new and improved trails, playgrounds, athletic fields, shelters, historic/cultural places and dog parks as the most desired amenities and uses.
Proposition 2 is a reasonable next step in protecting our parks for these and other intended uses. It is backed by all the members of the St. Louis County Council as well as numerous organizations devoted to improving the quality of life for all parts of our diverse community. Similar laws are already in place in St. Louis city and in some municipalities in St. Louis County. Democrats and Republicans alike support this initiative.
Our county parks are a treasure that make St. Louis County a better place to live, work and raise a family. They are a vital part of our diverse community, and Proposition 2 will ensure that the people — not politicians, lobbyists and developers — decide how our parks are used and preserved for future generations. The next time something big is proposed for a county park, let’s avoid the demonstrations, name-calling and political game-playing and let the public decide.
Gene McNary served four terms as St. Louis County executive and currently serves on the board of directors of the St. Louis County Parks Foundation.
Messenger: St. Louis County voters can turn park debacle into lasting legacy of preservation
By: Tony Messenger, St. Louis Post Dispatch, Link to Original Article
The last time I had been to Creve Coeur Lake Memorial Park was nearly a year ago.
Mitch Leachman and I walked the barren landscape, over matted-down straw put there to help new grass seed, in the area where County Executive Steve Stenger and the St. Louis Blues had planned to build the professional hockey club’s new practice facility.
Leachman, director of the St. Louis Audubon Society, was part of a massive citizen effort to stop the commercial project on the federally protected county park.
Now, a few miles away, the Blues are building their arena, and the people who saved the park are trying to make sure what happened at Creve Coeur never happens again.
In November, county voters will vote on Proposition 2, which was put on the ballot by the County Council. The proposition stops county officials from developing in a county park — commercially or otherwise — without a vote of the people.
A walk on the land north of Marine Avenue in the county’s largest park is a good advertisement for a yes vote. I was in the area recently for a meeting and stopped by the park again.
The straw is gone, replaced by grasses and weeds and the occasional wildflower. The massive retention ponds on both side of Marine sit there empty like question marks, designed to gather water from a big-box-store-like roof and parking lot that was never built. This is not a prairie grass project. It’s an abomination.
More than a year after the project was stopped by citizens, the federal and state government and political pressure heaped upon the Stenger administration for its bungling of the plan, not much has changed.
Tom Ott, the assistant director of the St. Louis County Parks Department, says county officials have been monitoring the progress on the property. The state Department of Natural Resources is requiring the Legacy Ice Foundation to reseed the property so it is at least usable again. Both Ott and DNR officials have required more work from Legacy Ice in the past spring and fall, as more erosion pops up.
Eventually, Ott says, there will be public meetings to discuss what to do with the property.
The land in question once had thousands of trees, some of them massive, that will never be back.
Leachman, hoping to turn lemons into lemonade, has suggested perhaps the area become a prairie land project, with natural grasses, and wetlands where the useless retention ponds sit now.
I suspect some citizens will suggest more active uses, perhaps some youth playing fields in the now mostly flattened and cleared land.
But whatever it becomes, citizens, likely, will have their voices heard.
That’s the spirit behind Proposition 2.
Steve Krost wishes the public vote requirement would have been in place a few years ago.
Before the Creve Coeur park debacle, there was R-9 Center.
A small park in south St. Louis County off of Telegraph Road, the park was so obscure it didn’t even have a name.
In 2015, in a project that started before Stenger took office, the county took a corner of the small park and built a police precinct.
Krost and his neighbors tried to stop it. They failed.
“You couldn’t find a more inappropriate place to put it,” Krost said at the time. A couple of years ago I sat on Krost’s deck with him overlooking what is left of what was a small 5.2-acre park. The project didn’t affect that many homeowners, but it changed the natural landscape they saw outside their backyards when they bought their homes.
County officials argued that taking the parkland saved taxpayers money.
“There is a price to be paid,” Krost said. “And who is paying it? We are.”
Proposition 2 delineates between votes for small parks under 15 acres — which would be in council districts — vs. those such as Creve Coeur, which would be countywide.
One of St. Louis County’s greatest assets is that the people who came here long before most of us decided that protecting open space and the region’s beautiful natural landscape was a value worth preserving.
In November, voters can continue that legacy.