FAIRGROUND – The Chouteau Greenway, a proposed biking and running pathway that would connect Fairground Park to Tower Grove Park in south city, could bring some much-needed new aesthetics to north St. Louis.
As part of the Great Rivers Greenway, the proposed pathway would also connect Forest Park to the Gateway Arch, spanning 20 city neighborhoods, connecting and creating new destinations.
Amenities along the proposed expansive and spruced-up trail could include gardens, restrooms, water fountains and playgrounds.
As attractive as the project sounds, north St. Louis residents want to make sure that it doesn’t come with any unpleasant ramifications. And they want to know what’s in it for them.
Those are some of the concerns that have been sprouting up as Great Rivers Greenway executives have been making their required community engagement rounds.
“I can’t even afford a bike, and if I could, I would need it to get back and forth to work – not to be cruising over to Tower Grove Park,” longtime resident Morsette Tucker said. Tucker lives near the Herbert Hoover Boys and Girls Club, 2901 North Grand Avenue, where a public meeting was held Saturday.
“We have more important things to think about than that,” Tucker said.
Emma Klues, vice president of communications and outreach for Greenway, acknowledged at the first public meeting recently at the O’Fallon Park Recreation Complex that what the regional public agency knew was “trails and parks.” However, she said, the regional public agency isn’t opposed to community partnerships.
“We are open to partnerships,” Klues said, adding, “We always want to get people’s feedback about our projects and what the community needs and wants so we can be good stewards of their taxpayer dollars.”
In 2000, area voters backed a sales tax for investment in, and connecting, some of the region’s rivers and parks. The funds allow Greenway to collaborate with partners and groups to build, care for and create a network of greenways.
The agency is also accountable to taxpayers through annual reports, collaborative regional plans every five years and the required ongoing community engagement.
In 2013, voters dedicated additional funds that support local parks departments, greenways and the transformation of the area surrounding the Gateway Arch, known as the CityArchRiver Project. Greenway is one of six partners in the CityArchRiver Alliance team.
“One of the challenges is to bring some of these partners and working groups together early so that we are working on this at the same time,” Klues said.
For Kalambayi Andenet, president of the International People’s Democratic Uhuru Movement, caution is the pathway to partnerships that come from outside of a struggling black community.
“These things sound great, but these are ultimately plans that they’ve used in place like D.C. that used to be chocolate cities, but now African people have been pushed out of their communities,” Andenet said.
“So if we’re going to do a greenway and put these things in, we have to make sure that it is not at the expense of the people that live here,” she said. “We can’t just be buying things from them, we need to know how it fits into building black businesses and building economic commerce within our communities where the black dollars stay in our community.”
In that regard, part of the project’s profile is to ask residents questions that relate to economic potential: Can this project spur or tie into other development? How would that benefit or harm the community, the environment or the experience?
The agency also considers equity impact, asking the questions: What is the history of this area or these people? Who might be impacted by this project? Are there potentially disproportionate impacts on communities of color or other groups? How might this project increase or decrease racial and other types of equity in the region?
To collaborate, learn more or voice opinion and concerns, visit www.GreatRiversGreenway.org.